DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Shed Productions. I am borrowing them for entertainment purposes only and not for financial gain.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the authors.

On Borrowed Time
By Nico


Chapter 13

Yvonne was driving down the motorway at a steady 70 miles per hour, she kept checking in to her rearview mirror to make sure nobody was following and she would again go through the routine procedure of double checking as she got close to the safe house. She was explaining the situation to Karen as she drove.

"So what's this all about then?" Karen searched for her cigarettes.

"I'm not so sure you should know about this Karen."

"It won't go any further if that's what you're worried about. I do know how to keep my mouth shut." Karen couldn't help getting annoyed; it felt like Yvonne didn't trust her.

"Don't go getting antsy, I trust you but I'm not so sure you need to see any of this, it's not at all pleasant." Yvonne pointed to the bag that contained the stuff from John.

"I've seen a lot of bad stuff in my time and I don't shock easily."

"There are some DVD discs and things, I haven't watched them but I know what's on them." Yvonne sighed, "If you really want to know, take a look."

"Bloody hell!" Karen exclaimed, "Some of the things on these discs sound positively horrific. How did he get hold of all this?" Karen skim read down the pages.

"Read his letter, it will explain." Yvonne only had to think of the letter and she choked up again.

"Poor bastard." Karen remarked when she'd finished reading, "I can't even begin to imagine what was going through his head knowing he was going to die. He thought a lot of you though."

"The feeling was mutual. John was a good man, although that seems a little hard to believe if you're familiar with some of the things he's done. But like I said, he was a good guy and he wanted these bastards caught." Yvonne felt tears threatening again but managed to blink them away.

"I'm not surprised." Karen nodded her head, "ritual torture, rape and murder aren't very pleasant subjects."

"Jesus, I wish Nikki was here." Yvonne lit the cigarette Karen passed over to her.

"I was wondering about her, how come you called Tony and not Nikki."

"She's in Scotland with Helen." Yvonne indicated and exited to a slip road.

"Romantic break for two? I had an idea those two fancied each other." Karen smiled.

"I only wish it was, Helen's dad is in hospital, he's dying."

"Oh that's awful." Karen blew smoke out of the window and sighed, "poor Helen."

"At least she's not on her own though, Nikki went up there last night to stay with her. She left me a message telling me that she was almost at the hospital and she would phone me back but she hasn't and her mobile is off. I tried ringing her a few times when I found out about this but she is probably still at the hospital."

"I'm sure she'll call later."

"Problem is, how do you tell someone over the phone about this? And also drop the bombshell that Jim Fenner is involved." Yvonne thought it was time to let Karen in on the rest of it.

"What?" Karen was shocked; she knew Jim and would never have believed it. But she could see it in black and white when Yvonne directed her to a certain page.

"According to John, Fenner has been meeting up with Parry and Mr. X's associates and he's been receiving money in return for giving them inside information."

"Who's Mr. X?"

"Sorry, I forgot you're not familiar with the case. Mr. X is the investor who is running the gun smuggling operation that Parry took from Dougan. We have no idea who he is and nor did John but he did get as far as finding out who some of his men were, it's all written down in there so it should be easy to look into."

"What are you going to do?"

"The only thing I can do is give it to Nikki and Helen. I'm not even going to watch what's on those discs, I don't have the stomach for it and it's best left alone. I'll talk to them about it when they get back." Yvonne pulled up at a set of traffic lights and quickly checked there was nobody following.

"I've got a few things to tell them myself."

"Like what?"

"There's the analysis on the bullet that killed Dougan for starters, something strange came up….." Karen was interrupted mid sentence.

"On second thoughts, don't tell me. I don't want to know any more than I already do. As soon as Nikki gets back with Helen, it's all theirs." Yvonne had no desire to get involved any more than she already had been.

"But what about Jim? He can't be allowed to get away with this surely?"

"It won't hurt for a bit longer, he'll get what's coming to him, don't you worry." Yvonne was certain of that.

Helen stretched lazily next to Nikki and smiled in the dark as she snuggled in to her again, she thought she'd heard a noise but realised it must be nothing and settled down to sleep again.

"Helen." Grace called out from the other side of the door and knocked again.

"Shit!" Helen exclaimed and shot up.

"Wha?" Nikki sat bolt upright.

"It's my mother! She can't catch us like this." Helen quickly jumped out of bed and into the empty one, "is that you mum?" she tried to sound sleepy.

The door opened and Grace poked her head in, Helen couldn't see her face because the light from the landing was shining into her eyes.

"You must have been in a deep sleep, I was knocking for a while." Grace stood awkwardly in the doorway.

"Yeah I must have been, sorry. What time is it?" Helen thanked god her mother hadn't come in and caught her in bed with Nikki.

"It's five o'clock. I've reserved a table at a nice restaurant for six, so why don't you get dressed and then we can go," she smiled slightly.

"Er ok mum, no problem." Helen didn't much feel like going out, but her mother seemed quite keen on the idea.

"Is that ok with you Nikki?" Grace looked over at the other bed.

"That will be fine, thank you." Nikki smiled but had no idea what she was smiling for, she'd already forgotten the question.

"Right, see you both soon," she closed the door behind her.

Helen lay back and groaned, before switching the bedside lamp on. She looked over to where Nikki sat staring into space and giggled at the state of her hair, it was sticking up as if she had been plugged in to the national grid. She jumped out of bed and joined Nikki again.

"You should see the state of your hair." Helen giggled as she tried to smooth it down.

"Uh?" Nikki looked up at her blankly.

"Are you always like this when you wake up?" Helen was amused.

"Like what?" Nikki shook herself awake.

"Spaced out." Helen couldn't help running her hands through Nikki's hair again.

"Oh yeah, sorry." Nikki grinned.

"Now were you just being clever in giving an automatic response to my mother or did you hear what she said." Helen raised an eyebrow and smiled.

"Yes to the first and no to the second." Nikki lay back down and stretched out pulling Helen with her.

"She's booked a table at a restaurant for dinner." Helen stretched out beside Nikki and lay half over her as she looked down at her.

"Right, it's all coming back to me now. I just remember being woken up with a whispered gabble of something Scottish and then you were gone." Nikki said as Helen giggled, "it's bad enough trying to understand you while I'm awake, and I just couldn't manage it while I was half asleep."

"My accent isn't that bad is it?" Helen pouted playfully.

"It is now you're home, and it's even worse when you're in a strop but normally you're fine. It's just one or two words that sometimes leave me baffled." Nikki thought Helen's accent was extremely sexy and could have listened to her all day irregardless of whether she understood a word or not.

"Aww sorry sweetheart, I promise to try and speak clearly for you."

"Hell no, I love the way you talk. Don't fix it if it ain't broke!" Nikki giggled and pulled Helen towards her, before placing a soft kiss on her lips.

"Mmmm." Helen licked her lips as she broke away from the kiss, "we better get ready, my mum's waiting. And don't go perving at me, just concentrate on getting yourself dressed otherwise we'll be here all night." Helen grinned as she stood up.

"Oh alright, but you never let me have any fun!" Nikki pulled a face.

"Behave yourself, and remember good girls get rewarded." Helen began rifling about in her suitcase.

"Amen to that." Nikki replied as she began to find her own clothes.

Forty minutes later they were sitting in the restaurant looking at their menus, and the conversation so far had been minimal, Grace had only opened her mouth to make several comments of an insulting nature to Helen. Helen tried several times to get a conversation going after that but Grace didn't seem interested. Nikki placed her menu down and took a sip of her mineral water.

"The fish sounds good," she said as she placed her glass back down.

"Yeah it does, I might try that myself." Helen replied, grateful that Nikki was trying to help her out.

"On second thoughts, I might ask them if they do burger and chips." Nikki grinned.

"Show a little decorum Wade, we're not in the station canteen now you know." Helen bantered back.

"It's not for me, I thought you'd feel more at home with a cheeseburger."

"Look who's talking! I took you out for lunch on Thursday and what happened? You decided you wanted a steak sandwich and onion rings. I can tell you don't get out much." Helen stuck her tongue out at her.

"Is it any wonder? I've got the boss from hell who keeps me chained to my desk." Nikki said with amusement and smiled fondly at her.

"Another remark like that and you'll end up in that cupboard I mentioned." Helen winked at her.

Grace watched the two women talking, she'd never seen Helen quite so animated before. Guilt stabbed at her insides, she'd been a terrible mother and she knew it, she'd had her reasons for being so distant but did they really matter that much anymore? She knew she should at least try to make some effort but wasn't sure how to go about it after all these years. They were well in to the main course before she decided to speak.

"How did you two meet?" she asked Helen.

"We met when I moved to a different station, and took over as DCI." Helen hadn't told her parents about her promotion so she was safe in the knowledge her mother wouldn't cotton on to how long they'd known each other.

"You never said." Grace was annoyed.

"It wasn't that big of a deal." Helen shrugged; her parents wouldn't have cared anyway.

"It sounds like a pretty big deal to me, but then again that's you all over, you never did give a damn about anybody else but yourself." Grace was angry, but it was her own fault. Helen didn't bother to tell her because she'd never shown any interest in her.

Helen took a sip of her wine and concentrated on her food, she didn't want an argument in a restaurant full of people, "anyway Nikki and I have to work quite closely and we've become good friends."

"How long have you been a police officer Nikki?" Grace turned her attention elsewhere.

"For twelve years now, I joined up when I was eighteen." Nikki gave Helen's knee a reassuring squeeze under the table and she placed her hand on top of Nikki's.

"What does your family think of it?"

"They're very proud of me. Mum and dad think it's great that I've got such a good career."

Helen listened intently, she and Nikki hadn't discussed her family yet and she was keen to hear more.

"Do they not think it's an unsuitable job for you?" Grace drained her glass of wine and topped it up. She ignored Helen's warning look.

"No, they have always supported my choice of career. I've been very lucky in having parents that care about me." Nikki knew Grace was trying to bait her but couldn't resist a sly dig.

"Well I suppose not all parents are that bothered about their children's career. Helen's father and I were dead set against it but yours obviously don't take that much of an interest."

Helen was fuming, how dare her mother be so insulting?

"Have you got any brothers or sisters Nikki?" Grace carried on and was oblivious to the uncomfortable look on Nikki's face and the angry look on Helen's.

"I've got a brother called Steve and a sister called Jill. They're both married with kids, Steve's got two and Jill is having her third now." Nikki squeezed Helen's hand as she shot her an apologetic look for her mother's behaviour.

"What about you? Are you married with children?" she asked, Nikki and Helen groaned inwardly.

"No I'm afraid not. I'm still only young yet, plenty of time for that." Nikki hoped she'd given a satisfactory reply.

"Children can be such hard work."

"Not all kids are hard work, my nieces and nephews are easy to look after so long as you keep them entertained. I think it's like that with most kids, if they get bored they act up." Nikki leaned back from the table; she suddenly didn't feel hungry anymore.

Grace nodded and carried on eating, signaling that the conversation was finished. Helen pushed her plate away, like Nikki she had lost her appetite. Despite the fact that her mother was still eating, Helen lit up a cigarette and passed one to Nikki, daring Grace to say something in response. She'd had enough of her mother's rude behaviour and couldn't take much more; Grace saw the look in Helen's eyes and remained silent.

By the time they left the restaurant, tension had built up between Helen and her mother to such an extent that both seemed ready to blow and Nikki wondered when it was all going to kick off. She had seen it building up on and off all day and knew that when it did there would be a few harsh words said at least. Nikki couldn't blame Helen for being pissed off, Grace had a knack of goading her and Helen had tried successfully so far to fend her off but it didn't look set to last for long.

She led them both outside to the car and Grace climbed into the back, whilst Helen sat upfront with Nikki. By the time they reached home, the atmosphere was thick enough to cut with a knife and Nikki followed them in to the house, as both women went to their corners ready to come out fighting.

Yvonne sat next to Sarah on the couch, and watched as she gently rocked the baby back and forth in her arms as she slept. Yvonne and Karen had spent all afternoon with her, and had tried to explain the situation but neither of them thought Sarah was taking any of it in, and if she had she gave no indication of it. Yvonne knew she was still in shock over John's death, and having to hide in the loft while her home was ransacked hadn't helped matters.

"Sarah love, I'm leaving soon, is there anything you need before I go?" Yvonne placed a hand on her shoulder.

"No, I don't think so," she gave her a dazed smile and turned her attention back to the baby.

"Tony and Laura are going to stay here with you for tonight, so if you need anything let them know." Yvonne waited for a response.

"Ok." Sarah said quietly.

Yvonne knew there was nothing else she could do and she left the room with Karen and went in search of Tony. She found him in the kitchen chatting to Laura.

"Are you off then boss?" Tony put his coffee down and stood up.

"Yeah I'm gonna head back to London. Are you sure you two are ok with staying here tonight?" Yvonne had already offered to stay with Sarah but Tony had refused, telling her not to worry.

"We'll be fine Yvonne, we'll arrange for somebody to come and take over tomorrow. I'll drag Waddle and Rossi down here." Laura placed her cup in the sink and stood next to Tony, "she'll be fine, don't worry about her."

"I told you she'll be ok. So stop worrying and lets get you home." Karen took hold of her elbow and steered her to the door.

"Call me if you need me." Yvonne managed to say as Karen dragged her out of the house.

"We will." Laura and Tony called out in unison.

Karen invited Yvonne back to her house for a drink and she had accepted, she didn't feel like being on her own after all that had happened and would be glad of the company. She got comfortable on the couch as Karen went to fetch the drinks, and tried to block everything out. The situation was getting to her, she didn't feel equipped to deal with things like this anymore, and it had been a major factor in deciding to leave the force.

"There you go, drink that and you'll feel better." Karen handed her a glass of wine and sat down beside her.

"Thanks." Yvonne gave her a weak smile, "it was good of you to come with me today, and I appreciate it."

"No problem, I wouldn't have let you go through it own your own."

Yvonne's tears came without warning and sobs wracked her body, Karen moved closer to her and took her in her arms. She held on to her tightly as she let it all out, whispering words of comfort as she did so. Yvonne sagged against her, it was very rare she ever let anybody offer her any comfort but in the past two days, Helen and Karen had managed to get past her barriers. It felt good to have somebody take care of her for a change.

"Feeling any better?" Karen asked as she stroked Yvonne's hair.

"A little bit." Yvonne croaked.

"I'm here any time you want to talk to me you know. Don't suffer on your own; it won't do you any good."

"I'll be alright, a couple of days and I'll be back to my old self but thanks for the offer." Yvonne smiled tearfully.

"That's exactly what I'm talking about. You hold things inside and it doesn't do you any good. What's so hard about talking to somebody?"

"I feel uncomfortable discussing my feelings, I've always been the same but I manage just fine on my own."

"Isn't it about time you let somebody in?" Karen said softly.

Yvonne didn't answer; she didn't quite know how to respond because of the way Karen was looking at her. It felt like she was staring right into her soul, and she was powerless to stop it, no matter how hard she tried. Karen slowly leaned forward and placed her lips against Yvonne's, expecting to be pushed away a split second later, but surprisingly Yvonne reciprocated the kiss.

Karen took this as confirmation that Yvonne had no objections and she deepened the kiss, her arms found their way around Yvonne and pulled her closer. Yvonne suddenly pulled away and stood up.

"I can't do this." Yvonne picked up her things and made for the door.

"Yvonne don't run off, lets talk about this." Karen was upset, she hadn't meant for things to turn out like this.

"I can't Karen, not now." Yvonne was shocked, she had actually enjoyed the kiss, "I'll see you soon," she opened the door and fled.

Karen closed the door and leaned against it, "shit!" she exclaimed, "Nice going Betts," she could have kicked herself, she had scared her off and that was the last thing she had wanted to do.

Helen came back from the kitchen with a couple of glasses of wine and handed Nikki hers before she sat down beside her. Grace sat in her chair quietly with a tumbler of whisky and Helen couldn't stand it any longer.

"Alright, out with it." Helen took a mouthful of wine and placed her glass down, she wouldn't normally have spoken to her mother like that but she had been getting up her nose all day.

"Out with what?" Grace replied innocently.

"Something, and I don't know what the hell it is, is bothering you. Now are you going to tell me, or do I have to sit here and wonder why you continually insulted us in the restaurant tonight?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean Helen."

"I'm sure you do, after all, you've been behaving that way towards me my entire life." Helen thought she may as well hit her with the lot seeing as how she'd got started now.

"Don't be ridiculous Helen, it's all in your head."

"Perhaps I should give you both some privacy." Nikki went to stand up and Helen stopped her.

"No Nikki stay, after all my mother owes you an apology too," she placed her hand on Nikki's leg and kept it there.

"What have I done now?" Grace was trying to act innocently.

"You can say what you like to me, but you don't insult somebody I care deeply about. I think the world of Nikki and I don't appreciate your behaviour towards her, you make me so ashamed."

"It's great to know I embarrass my daughter." Grace laughed humourlessly and downed the rest of her whisky before re-filling the glass.

"And getting pissed won't help." Helen replied before downing her own drink and retrieving the bottle of wine from the kitchen.

"Looks like you should follow your own advice." Grace replied curtly.

"Difference being though mum, is I know when to stop."

"Meaning what?" Grace's eyes blazed angrily.

"You know perfectly well what. I wasn't blind you know, I saw you work your way down a bottle of whisky more times than I care to mention." Helen folded her arms defiantly.

"How dare you!" she shouted angrily, "I'm not an alcoholic."

"I never said you were. What's the matter mum? Guilty conscience?" Helen raised an eyebrow at her.

Nikki sat watching one woman and then another, her head moving back and forth as if she were sitting watching a tennis match at Wimbledon. She got the feeling that this was the first time Helen had ever stood up to her mother, and she was proud of her. Judging by the way Grace was behaving and had treated Helen in the past, she deserved it.

"Say what you like about me but I'm not an alcoholic! The last time I touched a drop was when I found out your father was dying."

"You were the one that mentioned it." Helen shrugged.

"Problem with you is you're too much like your bloody father!" Grace tried to turn the argument back on Helen.

"I'm nothing like either of you; I watched the both of you enough times as I was growing up to know I didn't want to turn out like either of you. And while we're on the subject of my father, why is it you don't seem to be bothered in the slightest that he's dead?" Helen downed the rest of her wine, before yet again filling her glass.

"Of course I'm bothered."

"You've got a funny way of showing it."

"I'm sorry that he's dead, of course I am."

"Just sorry? What about heartbroken, I know if somebody I loved died, I'd be pretty bloody heartbroken or aren't you capable of giving a shit about anybody?" Helen was in full flow and didn't hold back, a lifetime of resentment was pouring out.

"You just don't get it do you Helen? I didn't love your father and I never would have!" Grace shouted angrily.

"What?" Helen was shocked.

"I didn't love your father, and it's a relief that he's no longer here. I never wanted to marry him in the first place and I never wanted you!" Grace knew she had gone too far as soon as she had opened her mouth.

Nikki's mouth hung open, she was as shocked as Helen was, she looked to her and saw the stunned look on her face. Helen couldn't find her voice; she didn't know what to say, as pain ripped through her heart. Several seconds later, she heard herself say something but it didn't feel like it was coming from her own mouth.

"I hope this happens to you one day, and then you'll know how much it hurts." Helen's tears were running down her face as she stood up and bolted from the room.

"I should go after her." Grace stood up and went to move towards the door.

"Leave her alone! I think you've done enough damage for one day, don't you?" Nikki snarled at her and left the room to go in search of Helen.


Chapter 14

Nikki found Helen lying on her bed facing the wall; she could tell by her body language that she was in an incredibly fragile emotional state. Her knees were drawn up to her chest, and she hugged them as if to keep the rest of the world at bay. She sat next to her and placed a hand on her back.

"Helen?" she said softly.

"Hey." Helen said quietly.

"I came to see how you were." Nikki could tell she was crying.

"I'm tired Nikki, I'm tired of fighting to hold everything together. I just can't do it anymore." Helen's voice broke and her tears fell faster, she sat up and sank into Nikki's arms.

"Then don't fight it sweetheart, get it all out of your system, I'll be right here with you." Nikki rubbed her back and gently rocked her.

Helen cried on Nikki's shoulder, months of pent up emotion came flooding out; and it was a relief to let it all go in the presence of somebody who understood her.

"Promise me you'll never leave me Nikki." Helen sobbed.

"I'll never leave you sweetheart." Nikki kissed the top of her head, "Helen, look at me." Nikki turned to look at her.

Helen looked at her with her big green eyes, and Nikki felt her heart shatter into a thousand pieces. She would have done anything to take Helen's pain away, but the only thing she could do was reassure her, she needed that if nothing else.

"I promise you that we'll always be together, no matter what." Nikki leaned closer to her and placed a soft kiss on her lips, "I need you Helen, and I couldn't bear to be without you."

Helen smiled tearfully, "I need you too Nikki, you mean the world to me."

"I know baby." Nikki rested her forehead against Helen's, "rest assured you can always rely on me to drive you nuts with monotonous regularity." Nikki gave a quick grin.

"I've noticed as much." Helen chuckled and wiped her eyes, "and believe me; I love it when you do."

"Strange woman!" Nikki giggled, "But hey, whatever turns you on."

"I know for a fact you do." Helen smiled shyly.

"That's something else we have in common."

"Yeah I know, you love yourself so much you're turned on by it." Helen giggled.

"Funny!" Nikki let go of Helen and feigned a sulky expression, "I won't tell you that you turn me on at all now."

"You just did." Helen stuck her tongue out at her.

"Me and my big mouth." Nikki grinned, "but joking aside, you know you turn me on," she ran her hand down Helen's thigh.

"Hmmm, then let me see if I can still do it." Helen pushed her back on the bed and proceeded to kiss her passionately.

Yvonne sat on her couch feeling miserable; she'd drunk the best part of a bottle of whisky and still wasn't drunk. She was finding it hard to come to terms with everything that had happened over the past few days, and Karen had only made things worse. Yvonne couldn't really blame Karen, after all she couldn't help the way she felt but she had still been shocked by it, it wasn't what she had expected at all.

She had no idea Karen felt that way, and in all the time she'd spent with her, she'd never picked up on it. She kicked herself for not having done so because if she had then maybe she would have been able to prevent it. She'd never looked at another woman in that way, men had always been her thing but Karen had stirred something within her. The feeling of having Karen's lips pressed against her own had made her feel things she had never felt before, and she was shocked that she'd actually kissed her back.

Yvonne had always suspected something like this would happen; she just hadn't planned on it being with a woman. How did she really feel about her? Was she really attracted to her? Or was it because she had been alone for so long and had been flattered by the attention? She poured herself another drink and downed it in one go, wincing as it hit the back of her throat and burned its way down.

She refilled her glass, lit a cigarette, and replayed the kiss again in her mind. As soon as Karen's lips had touched hers, her heart had started to beat faster, and she had been subjected to mental images of making love to her. Yvonne shivered as she thought about it; the thought of taking Karen to bed aroused her, and it only made her more confused.

"There's no way I'm attracted to her, no bloody way!" Yvonne said aloud.

Even if she had been attracted to Karen, it would never have been able to go any further. It would be a betrayal of the promise she had made to herself and to others, and Yvonne had never broken a promise in her life. The only person who knew about her situation was her daughter Lauren, and even though Nikki was her best friend, she had never told her.

Her phone rang, it was Karen again, she'd tried calling over half a dozen times now, Yvonne ignored it and poured herself another drink.

Helen lay quietly in Nikki's arms, they'd discussed Grace and she'd convinced her to talk to her mother. Helen wanted an explanation as to why her childhood had been a sham; she wanted to know why her parents weren't happy like other people. More than that, she wanted to know why her mother wished she had never given birth to her, and an explanation would go a long way to helping her accept the situation.

"I suppose I better go and talk to her." Helen groaned and sat up, "god knows why though. Why didn't I just disown my parents like anybody else would?" Helen smiled slightly.

"You've got a heart of gold that's why and it's not in your nature. I could just shoot your mother and bury her in the garden you know." Nikki chuckled softly.

"You must really care about me if you're suggesting you shoot my mother." Helen grinned.

"Suggest it? Jesus Helen, I'd do it! Just say da woyd, and I'll bump the old boyd awff for ya." Nikki did her Al Capone impression and Helen giggled.

"We'll see how the talk goes first, and if I don't get anywhere, we'll do her in." Helen winked at her.

"Sweet!" Nikki grinned, "I'll be right here I promise, I'm not going anywhere." Nikki gave her a tender look and Helen pulled her into her arms.

"I know sweetheart, and thank you. I don't know how I'd have managed without you." Helen kissed her softly and then smiled.

"I'm just too damn good." Nikki ran a hand through her hair and struck a pose.

"I just wish you'd let me find out how good you really are." Helen said seductively before leaving the room.

Nikki tingled at her words, it was getting harder to control herself around Helen, all she wanted to do was take her in her arms and make love to her. To love her so completely that she was fully aware of how she felt about her, but she needn't have worried, Helen was more than aware of how Nikki felt about her because she could see it in her eyes.

She suddenly remembered she hadn't called Yvonne yet and picked up her phone, it was pretty late but she was sure she would still be up. She thought about Helen while she waited for Yvonne to answer.

"Hello? Yvonne? It's Nikki," she heard grumbling in the background.

"What do you want?" Yvonne said tersely, she had persevered with the whisky and was now well on her way to being blotto.

"Nice talking to you too Atkins!" Nikki said none too gently, "What crawled up your arse and died?"

"Shut your cakehole." Yvonne retorted, "How's Helen?"

"Are you ok?" Nikki was concerned; Yvonne didn't seem herself at all.

"Look Nik, I'm sick to death of people asking me if I'm ok, so do me a favour and cut it out will you?" Yvonne said wearily.

"Excuse me for caring. Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Nikki was fast losing her patience even though she knew she shouldn't.

"No, I'm fine, just leave it. How's Helen?" Yvonne tried to pull herself together.

"She's been better, her dad died this morning and her mother's being a pain in the arse. She's having a really tough time, and she doesn't sound like she's the only one." Nikki couldn't help herself.

"Is every fucker deaf? I said I don't want to talk about it!" Yvonne exploded.

"Oh come on Yvonne, I've had problems in the past and even I know it's no good trying to bottle it all up." Nikki made an effort to calm down.

"We're talking about adult problems here, it's a little bit more important than you being dumped by some tart." Yvonne knew she'd gone too far as soon as she'd said it, she was being unfair.

"Right, well get on with it then." Nikki cut her off and threw the phone on the bed. Not only was she furious but she was hurt, and refused to answer the phone when it rang, because she didn't want to talk to Yvonne right now.

Helen had found her mother in the kitchen nursing a cup of tea, she said nothing but went straight to the fridge and poured herself a glass of wine, she couldn't face her mother without alcohol. She sat down opposite her and took a deep breath, as she steeled herself to speak.

"We should talk." Grace got there first.

"I'm listening." Helen shrugged and tried to look calm.

"What I said was unforgivable and I owe you an explanation, but I also owe you an apology. I'm so sorry Helen, but you have to believe that I love you." The expression on Grace's face was pained.

"It's hard to believe that, and it's going to take time. Please, I still need to know why you didn't want me." Helen said quietly.

"If you really want to know then I'll tell you. But I'm warning you, some of it will shock you." Grace fiddled with her teacup absentmindedly.

"I'm not a child anymore; I think I can handle it."

"Don't say I didn't warn you." Grace nodded and began, "Your father and I disliked each other with a passion, which I know is hard to believe but we got clever at hiding it in front of people. I never wanted to marry him; I was in love with somebody else."

"Who was it?"

"A man named Edward, he was the sweetest, most gentle person I've ever met and I loved him dearly. I met him one night while I was out with my friends, he asked me to dance with him and I said yes because he was so handsome and I couldn't wait to get closer to him. He treated me like a princess, never a day went by when he didn't tell me how much he loved me." Grace smiled painfully.

"What happened after that?" Helen took a sip of her wine and leaned back in her chair.

"It was love at first sight for both of us, we would spend hours together, we got very close and after just six weeks he asked me to marry him. I jumped at the chance and we started to plan the wedding, but it all went wrong when I took him home to meet my parents. There was an almighty row and I was forbidden to see him again." Grace looked uncomfortable; it was still painful for her to talk about.

"Why? Edward sounds like a wonderful man."

"He was a wonderful man, but my parents wouldn't accept him because he was Jamaican. My parents were incredibly prejudiced people and they refused to allow me to be with him because he wasn't white. I told them that he was a good man, that he was the best man I'd ever met but it all fell on deaf ears and my parents kicked him out of the house. I don't know what my father said to him but I never saw him again."

"If he loved you so much, why didn't he fight for you?" Helen leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table; everything else was forgotten for the moment as she got lost in the story.

"My father was an influential man Helen, he knew a lot of powerful people and he wasn't above threatening folk to get them to see things his way. I don't blame Edward in the slightest for not staying, if he had, my father would have seen to it that his life was made a living hell."

"Jesus, that's awful." Helen was disgusted by what she'd heard, "how could they even do something like that?"

"Like I said, my parents were deeply prejudiced. They were petty, small minded people and they saw no wrong in it. But from that day on, I hardly ever spoke to them; and once I was married, communication stopped altogether." Grace shrugged.

"Now I know why I didn't have grandparents like the other kids."

"I didn't want them anywhere near me, what they did was unforgivable and I ended up stuck in a marriage I didn't want because of it." Grace sighed, "Are you sure you want to hear the rest? I did warn you that you might be shocked by it.

"I need to hear it, irregardless." Helen needed to hear it, but wasn't sure she wanted to.

"Your father was in love with somebody else too and he got caught in a compromising position one day by his father. Had he been caught with a woman instead of a man then things would have been different." Grace waited for her reaction.

"Are you trying to tell me my father is, well was, gay?" Helen's eyes were wide.

"Yes Helen, your father was gay." Grace nodded slowly.

Helen was shocked at first, not because she was against the idea of her father being gay, but because it had been the last thing she expected to be told. Her face crumpled into a smile, her mother was right, she was a little like her father after all.

"What are you smiling for?" Grace looked questioningly at her.

"Nothing, sorry carry on." Helen straightened her face.

"Anyway, your grandfathers were good friends and they both had problem children to get rid of, so they came up with the idea of marrying us off and solving two problems in one go. Your father protested loudly but it did him no good, and he was threatened that if he didn't comply, they'd have him locked up in an institution."

"You make it sound like the dark ages."

"It's the truth, I'm not making it up and they wouldn't have hesitated in following through on their threat." Grace laced her fingers together, "but that's not all. When I was about six months pregnant with you, I came home one day to find your father in bed with a man. The same man he was with when his father caught him, but he never saw him again after that day, because he was terrified I would tell his father. Of course I didn't and I promised him I would never say anything."

"It couldn't have been easy finding him like that."

"It wasn't, because up until that day, I had no idea your father was even gay. Nobody saw fit to tell me and I had to find out in one of the worst ways possible. But I couldn't condemn him for loving somebody else, because I did too."

"So if dad was gay, then how did you? I mean you know….it must have been almost impossible for him." Helen asked awkwardly and blushed.

"It wasn't easy, my skin was crawling and so was your father's. He could barely manage it, and I wasn't so sure I would get pregnant, but I had to try because tongues were wagging." Grace blushed too; it wasn't easy to discuss sex with her daughter.

"You only had me so that people wouldn't gossip? Jesus Christ mother! What was I? A fucking fashion accessory? I was conceived while you were both desperately trying not to throw up over each other and that's supposed to make me feel loved? Holy shit!" Helen downed her drink and filled her glass up again.

"Helen please." Grace realised she should have worded her answer differently.

"Please what? Please don't feel like I was the result of one of your worst memories? Or please don't feel like I ruined your whole fucking life because I wasn't wanted? Well I'm sorry mum but that's exactly the way I feel." Helen rested her head in her hands.

"I didn't mean it; I should never have said it."

"Then why did you?" Helen was shaking uncontrollably.

"I was angry, and whilst it was true I didn't want you to begin with, as soon as you were born I loved you. Just because I didn't want children with your father then doesn't mean I don't want you now."

"You've got a funny way of showing it!"

"I know and even though it's no excuse, there were many factors that contributed to my behaviour towards you. I didn't want to be with your father, and when you were born it felt like I was inescapably tied to him for life, you were so much like him in appearance and I found it hard to deal with."

"But none of this was my fault!" Helen tried to hold on to her tears, she didn't want to cry in front of her mother.

"I know that, of course I do. But you represented a life I didn't want, a life I couldn't escape from, and I found it hard to get close to you and so did your father. He had a wicked tongue and I bore the brunt of his temper time and time again. He never hit me even once, but they say words always hurt so much more. He blamed me because he couldn't be with the man he loved, and I blamed him for everything too. We both saw you as being a part of a person we didn't want and it was wrong for us to treat you the way we did."

"I understand it was hard for you both, but I didn't ask to be born. All I ever wanted was to be loved and neither of you could even do that. I always thought it was my fault, I always thought there was something wrong with me. Why the hell did you let me go through life thinking I was to blame? Jesus, do you have any idea of how this has affected me?" Helen gave up trying not to cry.

"I'm beginning to, but you always seem so strong and well balanced. You grew up into a good woman and neither I nor your father can take any credit for that. You are what you made yourself and even though you won't believe me, I'm proud of you." Grace looked down at the table; she was so ashamed of herself that she couldn't look at Helen.

"It's all an act mum, it's had to be. I stumble from one day to the next, not knowing if I can keep it together anymore. I've had to fight to convince myself that I've got the confidence to do what I do, and that I've not been affected by anything that happened as I was growing up, while knowing that all the time I've been kidding myself. People thought I was strong and confident, they thought I was capable and yet they really didn't know me at all. When I started my new job, I'd gotten into such a state that I was falling apart, I walked into the station and every single one of them could see through me. They could see I didn't have the confidence in myself to do the job." Helen thought about getting another drink but getting drunk wouldn't solve her problems.

"That must have been awful."

"You're damn right it was awful and it was one of the worst experiences I've ever had, I don't have a shred of self confidence because I didn't get the love and support I needed when I was growing up. I had nothing to lean on, nothing to draw strength from until Nikki and I became friends, and she gave me the support I needed. Until I met her; I'd had to weave my way through life knowing I'd have fuck all to fall back on if everything went wrong."

"I'm so sorry Helen, this is all my fault."

"No it's not, it's dad's fault too. But since he isn't here, I can't scream at him." Helen placed her head on the table and sighed.

"What are we going to do?" Grace asked quietly.

"You're asking me?" Helen was incredulous, "you figure it out, this isn't my problem to solve. I've heard what you had to say, and you know how I feel. I'm too tired to talk anymore tonight and the next move is up to you. Goodnight." Helen stood up and didn't wait for a reply.

"Goodnight Helen," Grace said softly and put her head in her hands as her tears fell.

Helen locked herself in the bathroom and sank down on to the floor as she leaned against the side of the bath. She was physically and emotionally drained but the experience had been very cathartic. Now that she'd had an explanation, she felt better but she couldn't help that she still felt hurt and angry. None of it was her fault and she didn't think she should feel guilty for giving her mother a hard time, her mother had to make the next move and she was determined not to give in.

She was sympathetic to her parent's situation, she knew it must have been awful for them both but she still didn't agree with the way they had treated her. She took some comfort from the fact that her mother did indeed love her after all, but she wanted and needed so much more than that. She wanted her mother to be like she'd always wanted her to be, a best friend, somebody she could talk to. But she knew she couldn't force her mother to be like that, and she'd have to accept anything she was willing to give. Helen was too tired to think anymore and unlocked the bathroom door; she wanted to sink into Nikki's arms and try to forget that any of it had happened.

She entered the bedroom to find Nikki looking less than happy and wondered what was wrong with her; she hoped it wasn't something she had done. Nikki suddenly placed a smile on her face when she noticed Helen come in.

"Are you ok Nikki?" Helen sat down on the bed beside her.

"I'm fine, how did things go with your mum?" Nikki swung her legs off the bed and sat next to Helen.

"They could have gone better but on the whole it didn't go too badly. At least she put me in the picture about a few things. I'll tell you more tomorrow but right now I just want to forget about it." Helen rubbed her forehead and closed her eyes.

"Ok sweetheart, no problem." Nikki took hold of her hand and kissed it.

"Are you sure you're ok? You don't look ok to me."

"Well, remember we were talking about bumping your mother off before? If you kill Yvonne for me, I'll take care of your mother." Nikki smiled.

"Why what's happened? Don't tell me you two have fallen out?" Helen raised an eyebrow at her.

"We have but it won't last long. I called her before and it was obvious something was wrong. I tried to find out what it was but she wouldn't tell me. She said something I didn't appreciate and I put the phone down on her, she's been trying to call me ever since." Nikki leaned forward and rested her elbows on her legs.

"Why don't you talk to her?" Helen placed her hand on Nikki's back.

"I've had enough of an ear bashing for tonight that's why, I'll leave it for a while, give us both time to calm down," she moved closer to Helen and wrapped her arms around her, "you look tired, want Nikki to tell you a bedtime story before you go to sleep?" she grinned.

"Mmmm, I think I'd like that."

"Once upon a time, there was a big bad wolf called Yvonne who wouldn't stop calling Little Red Riding Nikki, because she knew she'd been a complete bastard to her. Now Little Red Riding Nikki knew Yvonne was going to grovel at her feet but she wanted to make her sweat for a while." Nikki said theatrically as Helen giggled.

Right on cue, the phone rang again and Helen answered it, knowing that Nikki wouldn't. Nikki rolled her eyes and moved back to lean against the wall.


"Hi Helen, is Nikki there?" Yvonne sounded upset.

"Yes she is but she won't talk to you. What the hell's going on? You're both acting like a couple of kids."

"I said something I didn't mean, and she put the phone down on me, I shouldn't have said and I'm sorry that I did."

"How much have you had to drink?" Helen could tell she was pissed.

"More than a little bit. I've been having a hard time recently and I took it out on Nikki, she was trying to help and I lost my temper."

"Anything you want to talk about?" Helen tried to draw her out.

"Thanks for the offer love but I'm ok, I can deal with it." Yvonne didn't think she could discuss it, and would rather have dealt with it on her own.

"You're obviously not dealing with it if you keep taking it out on those closest to you." Helen said gently.

"I know and I'm sorry for what I said but trust me, I have to deal with this in my own way."

"Ok but if you need somebody to talk to, I'm always ready to listen and I know Nikki feels the same." Helen looked over to find Nikki looking slightly guilty at not having spoken to Yvonne.

"Thanks Helen. I'll let you go now, but can you please tell Nikki that I'm sorry, and I love her." Yvonne was getting emotional again.

"Of course I will, and you know she feels the same. But she's a stubborn bugger, you both are." Helen ignored Nikki's gesticulations.

"Sounds like us." Yvonne laughed softly, "tell her to call me in a few days; I'll give her time to calm down."

"I'll tell her, I promise. Take care ok?"

"I will do, and you both take care too love. And I'm sorry about your dad, I'll be thinking of you."

"Thank you, that means a lot to me. I'll see you soon, bye Yvonne."

"Bye Helen."

Helen put the phone down and looked at Nikki, who was looking slightly sulky. Helen grinned; she was sure she could put a smile on her face; she placed the phone on the bedside table and pushed Nikki down on the bed.

"Are you going to sulk all night?" Helen straddled Nikki's hips.

"Yes." Nikki replied flatly, "Bloody women, they do my head in."

"I hope that doesn't include me." Helen raised an eyebrow at her and smiled.

"Nah, but if you'd asked me that at the beginning of the week then my answer would have been yes."

"The feeling was mutual Nikki, I hated your guts too." Helen folded her arms and narrowed her eyes playfully.

"Ouch! That hurt, I never said I hated your guts, I just didn't like you very much cos you pinched my job." Nikki's bottom lip quivered as she pretended to cry.

"Aww don't cry baby." Helen leaned forward and kissed Nikki on the forehead, "better now?"

"Much better." Nikki's body tingled from having Helen move against her, "but my arse is feeling a bit upset too." Nikki grinned naughtily.

"Drop em then! I'll kiss anywhere you want me to!" Helen giggled as Nikki flipped her over and pinned her down.

"Got you right where I want you, it's no good pleading for help, I will show you no mercy." Nikki was only pressing down gently on her, and Helen could have moved if she'd wanted to.

"I'm pinned underneath you and you think I'm going to beg for mercy? No chance, I like the view from down here." A wicked grin passed across Helen's face.

"The view ain't bad from up here as well." Nikki winked at her, "but unfortunately I can also see right up your nose," she chuckled.

"I can see right down your shirt, and you don't get many of those to the pound." Helen sniggered as she nodded towards Nikki's breasts.

"Look who's talking, yours have escaped from their restraints." Nikki giggled as Helen quickly looked down her own shirt, "made you look!"

"You're a rotten bugger Nikki Wade, good job I think the world of you." Helen winked at her.

"Is that the best you can do? Cos if it is I'll stop kissing you." Nikki pouted.

"I'd be heartbroken if you didn't kiss me anymore." Helen became serious.

"How heartbroken?" Nikki's breathing became heavy.

"Very, I'd cry into my pillow for months."

"Can't have you crying, you're far too beautiful for that." Nikki lay down beside Helen and looked straight into her eyes.

"Make me smile instead then." Helen said quietly.

Nikki leaned over and took Helen in her arms, and kissed her deeply. No matter how many times they kissed, it always felt like the first time and it set their hearts racing. Helen increased the pressure of her mouth against Nikki's; she flicked her tongue in and out and groaned quietly. She needed to feel Nikki's naked body against her own but she knew that wasn't going to happen yet. Her mother was downstairs and she knew Nikki wasn't ready, not that she blamed her because she wasn't sure if it was entirely wise herself but her hormones said differently.

She pulled away from Nikki and smiled, "I've got to learn to behave myself," she chuckled.

"Hell no, I like it when you're naughty!" Nikki grinned, "But we shouldn't, not yet anyway and I would feel uncomfortable knowing your mother is in the house."

"Tell me about it, she's the best anti-sex device around." Helen laughed and rested her head on Nikki's chest, "besides, we've got all the time in the world, we'll have to learn to control ourselves."

"Lets get ready for bed then, at least we can have a snuggle. But tell Tweety to back off, you're all mine." Nikki pretended to roll her sleeves up.

"I'll tell Tweety it's a private party and he's not invited." Helen got up and began looking for her sleeping attire.

"Is Tweety even a bloke? I never figured out whether he was just effeminate or whether he was really a she." Nikki found her own clothes and began to change for bed.

"I've never thought about it to be honest, I know Sylvester was a boy but Tweety remains a mystery."

"And remember Tweety's owner? The old woman who lived alone? I wonder why that was." Nikki pulled her t-shirt over her head and sat down on the bed looking thoughtful, "she battered that poor cat half to death as well, I reckon she needed anger management classes."

Helen grinned at Nikki, she was so funny at times, "maybe she was keen on the ladies but hadn't come out of the closet." Helen laughed and climbed into bed with Nikki.

"True, but did she look the type?" Nikki shook her head, "What am I talking about? The shit that goes through my head."

"I enjoy our little conversations, it's nice to talk about nothing for a change, and I love talking to you," she snuggled against Nikki and kissed her again, "goodnight sweetheart, sweet dreams."

"You too, night babe." Nikki turned out the light and settled down to sleep, as she held Helen tightly in her arms.


Chapter 15

Monday 4am

Tony pulled himself into an upright position and cradled his head; it was thumping, as if somebody was dancing about on his brain with hobnailed boots. An inch long gash stretched down from his hairline finishing short of his left eyebrow. He could feel a warm trickle rolling down his face. He gingerly wiped some of the blood from his forehead and winced as he did so, it wasn't a very deep wound but it was bleeding quite heavily and it hurt like hell.

He remembered that there had been a noise outside the house sometime in the early hours of the morning, and he'd gone out to investigate while Laura stayed with Sarah and the baby. He recalled being grabbed and thrown to the ground almost as soon as he'd opened the door but then everything had gone black. He cursed himself for leaving the house, he knew he shouldn't have but then he hadn't had much option.

He gingerly stood up and made his way upstairs as quickly as he could, stumbling every few steps and having to take a few seconds rest when he did so. When he finally managed to get upstairs; he found Laura on the bedroom floor, bleeding heavily from a wound to her stomach. There was no sign of Sarah or the baby.

"Shit!" Tony exclaimed and very quickly joined Laura on the floor, adrenalin took over and the thumping pain in his head was forgotten for the moment, "Laura! Laura wake up." He gently shook her but there was no response.

He felt for a pulse and thankfully she still had one, but there was blood everywhere and she was barely hanging on. He took his shirt off and pressed it to the wound to stem any further blood flow, and immediately dialed 999. The next call he made was to Yvonne.

"Hello." Yvonne mumbled sleepily, she was still feeling the effects of the alcohol she'd consumed only hours earlier.

"Yvonne, it's Tony," he tried to ignore the tide of nausea that was starting to spread through him, "Sarah's gone."

"What do you mean she's gone?" Yvonne struggled to think clearly, the alcohol still fogging her brain.

"I heard a noise outside and went out to investigate, somebody hit me over the head and when I came to, I found Laura laying on the floor bleeding and there's no sign of Sarah or the baby. It's bad Yvonne, really bad, she's lost so much blood." Tony felt like he was going to pass out any second, he was dizzy and his head ached, but he needed to stay conscious for Laura's sake,

"Jesus Christ!" Yvonne was wide awake now, the alcohol had rapidly dispersed, "have you called an ambulance?"

"Yes, I did that straightaway."

"Good, listen, I'll make a few calls. I'll drag Waddle and Rossi out of bed, and they can get the rest of the team on it because you need to find Sarah as soon as possible. Concentrate on Laura, they can take care of the rest." Yvonne knew she was no longer in charge of the team but Nikki and Helen were away and Tony couldn't do it all on his own.

"That would be great boss thanks." Tony took a deep breath and tried to focus as his vision began to blur, "I don't know who took her, I didn't get to see them," he said quietly.

"I think it's pretty obvious who took her, but I want to know how the hell they knew where Sarah was." Yvonne tried to make a connection, there were only a handful of people who had known where Sarah was and she trusted all of them.

"I don't know boss, there was only Laura and I that knew about it. Besides you and Doctor Betts of course." Tony echoed Yvonne's thoughts, "Degsy knows too, he arranged to get the keys to Laura for this place, but he wouldn't say a word."

"It doesn't matter for the moment. I'll make those calls now, and then I'll get to the hospital." Yvonne's professional side took over.

"Ok boss, see you later." Tony dropped the phone on the floor and looked at Laura's wound.

She was still bleeding profusely and his shirt was now soaked through, he needed something else to press against her stomach and he retrieved a towel from the bathroom. He folded it over a couple of times and then pushed down as firmly as he dared. Ten minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and he staggered downstairs to answer it.

"Ambulance mate, where is she?" The young paramedic announced himself.

"She's upstairs." Tony managed to say before he collapsed into the arms of the paramedic in front of him.

Karen sat up in bed and switched the lamp on; the shrill noise of her phone had jolted her into consciousness. Far from being startled by it, her heart didn't even skip a beat, she was quite used to being called at all hours, and fully expected to be called out to a crime scene.

"Betts." Karen's tone was businesslike.

"Karen, it's Yvonne. Are you in a fit state to drive?" Yvonne asked quickly.

"What the hell kind of a question is that to ask at…." Karen glanced at her watch, "a quarter past four in the bloody morning?" Karen had wanted to talk to Yvonne, just not at this early hour.

"It's the type of question that demands a soddin' answer! Now, are you fit to drive or not?" Yvonne's reply was curt.

"Yes I am, why?" Karen's tone was equally curt.

"I need your help, that's why. I know it's a lot to ask, especially after what's happened but I wouldn't ask if I really didn't need to. Please Karen." Yvonne's voice softened, she knew she was behaving rudely and felt ashamed of herself.

"Fine, just tell me where and when and I'll be there." As much as Karen wanted to tell her to piss off, she couldn't.

"Thanks, I owe you one. Can you pick me up as soon as possible at my place?"

"Yeah, give me fifteen and I'll be there." Karen hung up and set about getting dressed.

Nikki groaned when she heard her phone ring, she'd forgotten to switch it off and cursed herself. She was tempted not to answer it but knew it could be important, she reached over to the bedside table and squinted at the display in the dark.

"This fucking woman!" she exclaimed as she saw Yvonne's name displayed, "Yvonne, do you have any idea of what time it is?" Nikki groaned.

"I know but I wouldn't be calling unless it was urgent Nik."

"What's the matter?" Nikki sat up.

"Sarah's gone missing."

"Who's Sarah?" Nikki vaguely remembered the name for some reason but wasn't sure why.

"John's wife. She's gone and the baby is missing too."

"When did all this happen?" Nikki wore a puzzled expression.

"It happened a short while ago. Tony and Laura were at a safe house with Sarah, and Tony got clobbered over the head. Laura is injured too, she's got a stomach wound of some sort and he's already called the ambulance."

"Holy shit!" Nikki stood up and switched the lamp on; she began looking for her clothes, "why the hell was she in a safe house? And why didn't you tell me?"

"It's a long story, I should have told you earlier on tonight but I'll fill you in later." Yvonne wasn't going to mention the DVD's or Fenner's involvement just now, all that could wait till later.

"Yes you should have." Nikki was annoyed.

"When will you be back in London?"

Nikki stopped getting dressed; she'd just remembered where she was and why she was there. She looked over at the bed and Helen was looking back at her sleepily, she sat down on the bed.

"I don't know, I'll be there as soon as I can." Nikki felt awful, she wanted to be there for Helen but she was needed back in London too, she felt torn.

"I'll call you later love; I'll try and find out more."

"Talk to you later." Nikki put the phone down and turned to Helen.

She relayed the information Yvonne had given her and Helen listened patiently. When Nikki was finished, she jumped out of bed and started to get dressed.

"What are you doing?" Nikki asked as Helen pulled a pair of jeans on.

"I'm getting ready to go back to London with you, two of my officers have been injured and I need to find out if they're ok. Plus the fact, it's about time I took proper control of everything because this is all getting out of hand!"

"Tell me about it!" Nikki nodded her head, "Yvonne should have informed us of this straightaway, I don't know what the hell she was playing at."

"That's true, she should have, but don't be too hard on her. You were suffering from much the same problem last week if you recall." Helen looked at Nikki with an amused glint in her eye.

"Point taken!" Nikki smiled and started getting dressed again, "but what about your mum?"

"She'll be fine, she won't mind and I'll be back for the funeral on Saturday."

"We can both get back here for that, don't worry on that score. So we're agreed that we're both going back to London?" Nikki wanted to be sure that Helen really wanted to go.

"Yes, like I said, I can get back here for the funeral and I'm sure my mother can cope till then." Helen tucked her t-shirt into the waist band of her jeans.

"You better go and tell her then; I'll pack the rest of our stuff up and get the car started."

Helen nodded and left the room; she tapped on her mother's bedroom door and walked in. She was surprised to find her awake and reading.

"Sorry to barge in mum but we've just had a phone call from London, I'm afraid Nikki and I have to get back to work. A couple of our colleagues have been injured and it's a very serious matter," she sat on the bed next to her mother.

"You should go, of course you should. I'll be fine here on my own." Grace put her book down and removed her glasses.

"I'm really sorry about this; we haven't had much time together I know. But I promise I'll be back in time for dad's funeral on Saturday."

"There will be plenty of time for us to spend together in the future," she was determined to get to know her daughter properly, "off you go and I'll see you soon." Grace nodded as Helen stood up, "and Helen, please be careful."

"I'm always careful mum." Helen was a little surprised.

"I'm sure you are, but I always worry about you." Grace looked down at the bedclothes; it had taken a lot of courage to say those words.

"I'll be fine and I've got Nikki to look after me, so don't worry." Helen smiled and then on impulse, she did something she had never been allowed to, she leaned down and kissed her mother on the cheek.

"Safe journey Helen." Grace's eyes moistened.

"See you soon mum, take care." Helen gave her one last smile and then she was gone.

Helen had jumped in the hire car and dropped it off at the airport whilst Nikki waited in the car for her outside. Yvonne had called and told her that she was on her way to the hospital and when she found out more she would call her again. Nikki wished she knew what was going on, she didn't have the information she needed to piece it all together, and she would have to wait until she was aware of all the facts.

Helen exited the rental office and jumped in the car and put her seatbelt on whilst Nikki navigated her way out of the airport. Neither of them spoke as they headed for the motorway, they had both known that this investigation wouldn't go away, but neither of them had thought it would take a turn in this direction and as of yet, neither of them knew why it had.

Yvonne practically sprinted up the corridor of the hospital where Tony and Laura had been taken, as Karen followed closely on her heels. They came to a stop outside his room, and Shell looked up at them with red rimmed eyes from where she sat just by the door.

"Shell love, are you ok?" Yvonne knelt down beside her.

"I'll be ok when I know that Tony is." Shell began to sob and Yvonne took her in her arms.

"There there love, I'm sure he'll be fine." Yvonne patted Shell's back and silently hoped she was right, "have the doctors said anything?"

"He's had a nasty blow to the head, they've x-rayed him and he's got a hairline fracture of the skull. They're checking him over because he's been sick a few times."

"Being sick is a normal side effect of head injuries Shell. When he's had some rest, he'll feel better." Karen didn't think there was much cause for concern, she'd seen many cases like this before and the vast majority recovered with no permanent damage.

"Have you heard anything about Laura?" Yvonne didn't like to ask because Shell was so upset about Tony but she needed to know.

"I asked the doctor before, and she's been taken down to theatre." Shell wiped her eyes, "she's in a very bad way, she was stabbed apparently and the wound was quite deep. They're not sure if any of her internal organs are damaged, but she bled quite heavily."

"Jesus." Yvonne shook her head, "Tony said it was bad, I hope to Christ she pulls through."

Parry was pacing his living room, he hadn't heard a word from his men, and he was getting concerned. When he'd spoken to his police contact, he'd found out where Sarah was and he knew he needed to act quickly. The DVD's were bothering him, he still had the feeling they were going to show up and when they did, he'd be in deep trouble. He threw back the remaining brandy in his glass and poured himself another.

He couldn't keep Sarah at the printing works because that would be the first place the coppers would look. He had thought about a variety of different locations but the best one would be the shipping office run by his brother in law. The security was tight but David knew all of the guards and was on friendly terms with them. They would never question him visiting at any hour of the day, and although David hadn't wanted to have Sarah there, Parry had forced him into it.

Parry never asked for favours, he threatened people to get what he wanted and he knew enough about David to ruin his marriage at least. Parry didn't care if David lost everything, all that mattered right now is that he got what he wanted and he didn't care who had to suffer in the meantime.

He downed his brandy and lit up a cigarette, his hands were shaking and he wondered how it had all come to this. He was losing his nerve and he knew it, a few months ago he would never have been rattled in this way. But the stakes were a lot higher now and he was playing the game with somebody far more ruthless than he'd ever been and that was saying something.

It was all taking too long and he was getting increasingly frustrated, he thought about calling his men but decided against it. He didn't know what was going on and he didn't want to divert their attention away from the job at hand. He poured himself another drink, ordinarily he wasn't one for drinking very much, but his nerves were shot and he needed it. It was yet another sign that he was losing his control, and it made him feel weak, something he'd promised himself he would never feel again.

He'd grown up on a rundown council estate and the other kids used to tease him mercilessly about his height. They made him feel weak and useless, feelings that he couldn't cope with, so he fought back in the only way he could. He would threaten them, and at first they had laughed in his face, but when it became apparent he followed through on his threats, they quickly learnt to respect him. This gave him the feeling of power he'd always wanted and he'd never looked back since.

His phone rang, and he quickly picked it up, "Parry." He said gruffly, trying to mask his nervousness.

"It's done but we've got a slight problem." The voice on the other end sounded nervous, he'd cocked up and knew Parry wouldn't be happy.

"What have you done now?" He spoke with a threatening edge to his voice.

"I smacked the first copper over the head, but the second startled me," his throat was dry and he coughed nervously.

"Startled you?" Parry growled.

"Yeah she came out of nowhere and I put her out of action."

"Don't tell me you've killed her," it was a statement, not a question.

"No, I don't think so. I just jabbed her a bit with my knife."

"Jabbed her a bit? How much is a bit? You brainless tosser!" Parry went mental.

"Hard to tell Guv, sorry."

"You bloody well will be! I've had the fuzz on my back enough recently, and now thanks to you, they could well come sniffing around again!" It wasn't the real reason Parry was pissed off with him, but it was a good enough reason on its own in any case.

"I'm sorry."

"I'll deal with you later, just take her to the arranged place and make sure she's securely locked up."

"Yes Guv, I'll do that."

"You better had, and while you're about it, remind David that he has no choice but to comply, got me?" he spoke in a voice that didn't invite any discussion.


"Go on then, piss off." He snarled before ending the call, and throwing his phone across the room in a fit of temper.

It was late afternoon by the time Nikki and Helen arrived at the hospital, and knowing that Laura was still in theatre, brought the seriousness of the situation forcefully home. They had known she was in a bad way but hadn't realised that she'd spend all day being operated on.

"What is it with me and hospitals? I feel like I've been spending half my life in them recently." Helen shuddered, she'd never liked hospitals but she positively detested them now.

"Sorry sweetheart, maybe you'd have been better off going home." Nikki replied.

"Is that you speaking as a friend, a colleague or ma bird?" Helen giggled.

"I'm not going to answer that question on the grounds that it may incriminate me." Nikki winked.

"It was a sweet idea anyway and thank you." Helen placed a hand on Nikki's arm, "unfortunately it's my job and you can't protect me from everything no matter how much you want to." Helen gave her a look that told her she understood how she was feeling even though she hadn't voiced it.

"I know." Nikki gave her arm a quick squeeze and then veered off to the left with Helen following.

Tony lay sleeping as the door quietly opened and Nikki and Helen peeked in. The three women sitting around his bedside looked up and smiled at them in greeting, Nikki motioned for them all to move outside so they wouldn't disturb him. Shell immediately walked towards Nikki and put her arms around her.

"It's so good to see ya Nik."

"You too darlin' how's Tony?" Nikki wrapped her arms around her.

"He'll be fine, he's got a hairline fracture of the skull but the doctors said he'll recover." Shell held on to Nikki tightly.

"That's bloody brilliant news, I've been so worried about him." Nikki felt a lump forming in her throat.

"We've heard from the doctors about Laura." Yvonne said quietly.

"What did they say?" Helen turned to face her.

"It's not looking good, she's had a transfusion but there's been some damage internally. The next 48 hours are critical."

"Good god." Helen had been hoping it wouldn't turn out like this.

"Are you ok Shell?" Nikki broke the silence.

"I'm ok, I'm tired but I feel better now that I know Tony is safe."

"We'll take you home soon, I know you want to stay with Tony but you need to rest. You've got to think about the baby." Nikki rubbed her back comfortingly.

"She's right love." Yvonne placed her hand on Shell's shoulder, "Tony is in good hands here and you've got to take care of yourself and the nipper."

"Karen, can you take Shell for a coffee? Helen and I need to talk to Yvonne." Nikki smiled over at Karen, who seemed strangely quieter than usual.

"Yeah sure." Karen smiled back, "come on love, let's go get a drink."

"See ya's later." Shell said before walking off with Karen.

As soon as Karen and Shell were out of sight, Nikki turned to Yvonne and pulled her in for a hug. Yvonne knew she was forgiven for what she'd said to Nikki, and it was a weight off her shoulders. Yvonne then pulled Helen into the hug and the three women stood there holding on to each other.

"Group hug eh? You've been watching far too much telly Atkins, it's made you go soft in the head." Nikki chuckled.

"Shut it Wade." Yvonne said playfully, "anyway, what have you two been up to?" Her eyes twinkled in amusement.

"We've been having wild passionate sex three times a day but other than that not much." Helen giggled as Nikki's face went beetroot.

"Have you indeed?" Yvonne grinned, "Don't keep me waiting girls, I want all the sordid little details."

"I don't kiss and tell Yvonne, you know that." Nikki stuck her tongue out at her.

"I'll tell you all about it later Yvonne." Helen said in a stage whisper.

"But first, Yvonne's got something to tell us. So come on Atkins, spill, we want to know everything." Nikki looked Yvonne straight in the eye as they broke apart.

"Well…..." Yvonne began.

Sarah was huddled in the dark, she had no clue as to where she was and she was more frightened that she had ever been in her entire life. Thankfully the baby seemed to be oblivious to it all and slept on peacefully. She needed John more than ever right now but she knew he wasn't going to come and save her, he was gone forever. She had no idea why the men had come for her in the middle of the night, but she knew it must have had something to do with John. Why else would they kidnap her?

She heard a noise off in the distance, it sounded like machinery of some sort and she tried to figure out what it was. She knew there was no way of escaping and it gave her something to do, it was something to focus on and it kept her panic at bay. A sudden noise of footsteps made her sit up straighter and she leaned as far back against the wall behind her as she could. She placed her arms protectively around her baby as the door was unlocked and the light shone blindingly in her eyes. Her eyes eventually re-adjusted to the light and she gasped when she saw who was standing in front of her.

"Hello Sarah, remember me? It's been a long time." Parry grinned evilly as he saw a look of shock pass across her face.


Chapter 16

Nikki and Helen ran full speed from the hospital to the car; Gina Rossi had called them only minutes earlier to inform them that they had been able to positively identify the man who had stabbed Laura. A bloody fingerprint had been found on the doorframe of the bedroom where Laura had been attacked, and it had been run through the system hitting on a positive match. The man they were looking for was called Craig Evans.

Not a lot was known about him, except for a few juvenile convictions involving stolen cars. And they knew he had worked for Dougan before he was killed, but had obviously now crossed over into Parry's camp. They intended to arrest him and drag him in for questioning. They might not be able to touch Parry at the moment, but they could certainly charge Evans with the attempted murder of a police officer.

They came to a halt a few hundred yards up the road and waited for backup. DC John Graveson and DC Dave Thomas turned up five minutes later and they prepared to introduce themselves to Evans. They took their positions as Nikki knocked on the door.

"Open up! Police!" she hammered on the door and waited.

A figure was seen moving behind the glass and the door opened, as a pair of unfriendly eyes met theirs.

"Are you Mr. Craig Evans?" Nikki said flashing her badge.

"Yeah, what do you want?" Evans closed the door a little.

"I'm DI Wade; these are my colleagues DCI Stewart, and DC's Graveson and Thomas. We'd like to come in and have a talk with you." Nikki made no mention of arresting him just yet.

"What for?" The door inched a little further closed.

"Could we do this inside please Sir?" Nikki said politely.

He looked at them for a few seconds, Nikki could see what he was thinking and made a grab for him but he was too quick and was already out of the back door before she regained her balance and went chasing after him. She followed him to the garden where she saw him disappear over the garden wall. She groaned and jumped up, pulling herself over and dropping to the other side.

Nikki was reasonably fit but this guy was at least six foot four, and his legs were much longer than hers. She had trouble keeping up, and she had to push herself harder. She could hear Graveson puffing behind her and she grinned, he always went on about how fit he was but he was having problems in keeping up with her. Evans disappeared around the corner and Nikki sped up even further, the streets in this neighbourhood resembled a rabbit warren and it wouldn't be hard for him to give her the slip.

To her dismay, as she rounded the corner, he was already a couple of hundred yards ahead. She was amazed at his speed, thinking he'd have been better suited as an Olympic athlete. Graveson by now had fallen away and was clutching his side in agony; she had no idea where Helen or Dave was.

She powered on, and it started to get easier now that she was finding her second breath. She found that she was actually beginning to gain on Evans and it soon became apparent why. He was limping as he ran, and it had started to slow him down considerably. She continued to gain on him, until she was just a few feet away but before she could grab him, he was rugby tackled to the ground. Evans' hands were swiftly cuffed behind his back and a grinning Dave winked at her.

"You took your time Nikki," he chuckled.

"You're a cheeky sod Dave!" Nikki bent double and breathed heavily, "where's DCI Stewart?"

"Right behind you." Helen said as Nikki turned around and glanced up at her, "where's Graveson?"

"He's back there somewhere having a heart attack, lazy sod couldn't keep up." Nikki pointed behind her.

"He's bleeding." Helen remarked as she looked at Evans' leg, "what's wrong with your leg Mr. Evans?" she said as she moved to stand in front of him.

"I had an accident," he replied quickly.

"Yeah, I'm sure you did." Helen nodded at him, "DC Thomas, can you please show Mr. Evans here to the car."

"My pleasure boss. Come on Evans, let's go." He dragged him up off the floor and took him off in the direction of the car.

"I've arranged for the house to be searched, not that we're likely to find anything, I doubt he's that stupid." Helen remarked as she watched Nikki getting her breath back.

"Probably not. I'd love to hear him explain how he come to injure his leg though."

"He's going to have to." Helen placed a hand on Nikki's shoulder, "are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm just getting too old for all this shit." Nikki groaned as she straightened up.

"I hoped you'd have far more stamina than that sweetheart." Helen grinned at her.

"Oh yeah?" Nikki folded her arms and smiled, "and why is that?"

"Cos for what I had planned, you're gonna need plenty of energy." Helen drawled seductively and moved off, leaving Nikki's tongue hanging out.

Evans had been taken into custody and was now being seen to by the police surgeon, while Helen and Nikki made their way to the incident room. A few people were going about their business and didn't look thrilled about the fact, they hated kidnappings, they were notoriously difficult to solve. Meanwhile Waddle and Rossi were making eyes at each other across their desks. Helen threw her bag in her office and called them over.

"What can I do for you boss?" Waddle said cheerfully as Gina narrowed her eyes at him.

"We've got Evans in custody; he's being checked over by the doctor at the moment because of a leg wound. We suspect he got the injury in the course of his attack on Laura but we need to find out for sure. What I want you to do is have a word with the doctor and get him to liaise with Laura's surgeon. I want to know if their injuries are consistent with the same knife. But at this point in time, we don't have a weapon to match the injuries to so anything you find out would be a bonus." Helen tilted her head and waited for a response.

"No problem boss." Waddle smiled once more, "we'll get on that straightaway," he turned and walked away.

"Were you flirting with her?" Gina said as she followed him and Nikki stifled a giggle.

"Oh don't start that again Gina." Waddle shook his head in exasperation.

"You were undressing her with your eyes," her tone was accusing.

"Don't those two ever give it a rest?" Helen shook her head.

"Nope, they're always like that." Nikki rolled her eyes at them, "great, I wonder what we've done to deserve this unexpected pleasure?"

"Eh?" Helen looked at Nikki puzzled.

She inwardly groaned. Standing in front of them, was DC Lorna Rose, and DS Andy Lockyer. This was the last thing Helen needed, and Nikki didn't look pleased about it either.

"DCI Stewart." Andy nodded at Helen, "Wade," he barely bothered to look in Nikki's direction.

"What can we do for you?" Helen asked as she turned to them.

"We've been told to report to you, we've been transferred to this team for the time being while Laura and Tony are in hospital. Superintendent Fenner's orders." Andy spoke in a bored tone.

"Pleasure to have you here DS Lockyer," she said sarcastically, "Lorna mate, you can give Waddle and Rossi a hand." Lorna smiled and did as she was told, "and you DS Lockyer have a very important task. See that corner over there? You'll find it full of files, and those files need tidying away. Don't take all day about it." Nikki's expression remained neutral and Helen tried not to laugh.

"I'm not your bloody secretary." Andy glared at Nikki.

"You will do as you're told, I'm your senior officer and it's an order." Nikki held his gaze, willing him to disobey her.

"Whatever," he shrugged at her, "DCI Stewart, could I have a word please?"

"Not now, I'm busy." Helen held her hand up.

"This can't wait ma'am, I need a word now."

"Very well, you can have five minutes, wait for me in my office," she said curtly, and then turned to Nikki when he was gone, "I don't want him you know, I want you." Helen said quietly.

"I know." Nikki's grin was huge, "but there's no harm in reminding me," she winked cheekily.

Helen smiled, she had expected Nikki to be annoyed about it, "just so long as you know. He's ancient history and you," she pointed at Nikki, "are my future, and I'm very much looking forward to it."

"Me too sweetheart, me too." Nikki replied with a smile.

Helen sat at her desk and felt Andy's eyes boring into her, she wasn't aware of what she'd done wrong this time but she didn't have to be, he was always being blaming her for something or other. She took her jacket off and placed it around the back of her chair before leaning forward to rest her elbows on her desk.

"What did you want to see me about?" Helen said casually.

"Where've you been all weekend? I came round to see you but you weren't in," he glared at her.

"If you'd bothered to give me a call, I could have told you exactly where I was. My father died on Sunday, I was with him when he did."

"Oh, well that explains it. No wonder I couldn't find you." He grinned and tried to pass it off.

"Don't try and sidestep this Andy, my father died and you don't give a shit. I'm tired of all this and it's over," she felt much better now she had said the words.

"It's not my fault! I did try and see you." His eyebrows shot up.

"You could have called me, nothing was stopping you but it always comes down to the same thing, you just don't care enough. I mean it, I don't want this relationship anymore, it's finis……," she was interrupted by a knock on the door.

Nikki popped her head in, "sorry to bother you boss, but I've just had word from Doctor Graham that Evans is ready to be interviewed."

"Thanks Nikki, I'll only be a couple of minutes if you can hang on for me." Helen smiled over at her, she wasn't aware of it but a look of love shone in her eyes.

"Sure no problem." Nikki gave her a wink, she had noticed the look and it made her heart skip a beat.

Andy looked at the expression on Helen's face, he could see the look in her eyes when she looked at Nikki and he put two and two together. She was obviously in love with her and the thought made him angry and sick.

"No bloody wonder you can't wait to get rid of me," he snarled.

"It's an important interview, he's the man responsible for stabbing Laura Jordan and I've got to question him." Helen was puzzled, she couldn't see the reason for his sudden bad temper, she hadn't been aware of the expression on her face.

"I'm not talking about the interview, I'm talking about you and that dyke!" he spat.

"I'm sorry, I don't follow." Helen followed perfectly well but as far as she was concerned, it was none of his business.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about; I've just seen the way you look at her. Are you fucking her?" he asked crudely.

"Who I sleep with is none of your business since you and I are over. I've told you we're finished but you don't seem to want to listen."

"You disgust me," he pulled a face at her, "mind you, it shouldn't surprise me, you always were frigid."

Helen wasn't fazed in the slightest, "maybe you should be looking to lay the blame at your own door."

"Meaning what?" he shouted.

'You're not the greatest, most attentive lover I've ever had, maybe that explains it." Helen didn't want to get into it, she wasn't looking for a big fight, "look, this is getting way too personal, lets just drop it before it gets any worse."

"Yeah you're right." Andy nodded and smiled, "we're not suited, we never have been and it's just one of those things. No point in blaming each other, we should let bygones be bygones."

"I agree." Helen regarded him with suspicion, she wondered about his rapid change of attitude.

"Well, I won't keep you any longer, and I'm sorry to hear about your father, it's a real shame," he stood up and held out his hand.

"Thank you." Helen replied as she shook it, "well I better get going, I've got a suspect to interview," she wasn't fooled for a second; there was no way he could change his mind that quickly.

"Yes of course, sorry to have kept you," he smiled and opened the door; he left the office and walked across the incident room.

"Hey Nikki?" he called out.

"Yeah?" Nikki whirled around and then ended up on the floor as Andy's fist connected with her jaw.

"DS Lockyer!" Helen shouted, "What in god's name do you think you're doing?" Helen was horrified and immediately rushed to Nikki's side.

"Something I've always wanted to do." He smiled smugly.

"That's it, you're suspen…..," she said angrily before she was interrupted.

"That won't be necessary DCI Stewart." Nikki said as she wiped a trickle of blood from her lip.

"Nikki, how can you say that?"

"I'm not going to give him the satisfaction." Nikki placed the back of her hand against her mouth and got to her feet with Helen's help, "I'm warning you Lockyer, that one was for free, but if you so much as touch me again, you'll be spending the next 6 months of your life in traction," she was deadly serious.

"Thanks for that, I needed a good laugh." Lockyer had a smug look on his face and Nikki itched to wipe it off.

"The only thing that's funny around here is you; you're a bloody big joke. You're a poor excuse for a human being Lockyer and if clocking me one makes you feel like a big man then I pity you." Nikki shot him a disgusted look.

"Screw you Wade," he sneered at her and made to walk away.

"Lockyer, don't even think about leaving. There's filing to be done, and I want it out of the way before I get back and if it isn't, there'll be trouble." Helen's eyes shot him a warning look.

"Fuck you ma'am," he began to walk off in the direction of the files, "I'm a bit late on that score mind you, because Wade already does," he said loudly but Helen let it pass.

"What the hell was that all about?" Nikki said once he'd gone.

"He's pissed off because I ended it and he knows how I feel about you."

"How did he find out?" Nikki was surprised.

"He saw the way I looked at you and put two and two together." Helen shrugged.

"Maybe he's not such a bad detective after all." Nikki grinned, "does it bother you?"

"Not in the slightest, I don't care who knows that I fancy you rotten." Helen winked at her.

Evans sat quietly smoking in the interview room, he could guess why he'd been arrested, after all it didn't take a genius to work it out. But what he was confused about was how they'd known about his involvement. He and his accomplice had worn face masks and he was pretty sure nobody could have identified them; Sarah certainly couldn't have because she was locked up at this very moment.

Then it came to him, "shit! The gloves, I forgot to wear the damn gloves," he could have kicked himself and fervently hoped they didn't have much on him but the very fact that he'd run away from them made him look guilty immediately.

The door banged open and he glanced up as Nikki and Helen walked in. He stubbed his cigarette out and lit another one, as he began to pick apart the Styrofoam cup in front of him. Helen sat down wordlessly and placed a couple of tapes in front of her, along with a legal pad.

It contained notes she had written a few days ago about a different case but then again he wouldn't know that and she could use it as an effective prop in her questioning. Nikki sat down beside her and lit a cigarette, which she passed to Helen before lighting one of her own.

"Not long now Mr. Evans, we're just waiting for your solicitor." Helen said in a friendly tone.

"I didn't request one, I've got nothing to say to you," he replied.

"Really?" Helen knew perfectly well he hadn't requested a solicitor, "in that case then, you can have one appointed for free, if it's financially difficult for you."

"I can afford a solicitor but I don't want one, I've got nothing to say to you," he repeated trying to keep his cool.

"So, you're refusing to have a solicitor present?" Helen wanted him to clarify his position.

"Yes, I don't want a legal representative, how many more times do I have to tell you?" he replied testily.

"Since you've made it clear you don't want any legal advice, I'm still within my rights to question you. Do you understand?" Helen raised an eyebrow at him.

"Yes, but I'm not saying anything. I know my rights, and I can choose to stay silent if I wish." He folded his arms defiantly.

Helen nodded, and placed the tapes inside the recorder "interview started at 6:05pm, present are…." she rattled off information for the tape and then picked up her legal pad.

Evans didn't even bother to look at her, he'd never liked eye contact and especially not with the police. The cup now rested in a little pile, torn to pieces and this was what Evans focused his eyes on. He had to keep it together, but if they had evidence, he was up shit creek without a paddle.

"Can you tell me where you were between the hours of 2 and 4am this morning Mr. Evans?" Helen got started.

"In bed obviously," he replied.

"Is there anyone we can talk to, to confirm that sir?" Helen waited for his response.

He didn't say anything, knowing that if he did, they'd check and they'd find out he'd been lying and it would make him look guilty. Better to stay silent and see how things panned out, see how much they really had on him. However, by staying silent, he knew he'd look guilty anyway so he couldn't do right for doing wrong.

"I don't think you were in bed sir, in fact I think that during the early hours of this morning, you gained entry to a house in Windsor, after clubbing a police officer over the head. You also attempted to murder another police officer, by violently stabbing her in the stomach and then proceeded to kidnap Mrs. Sarah Howe and her infant daughter.." Helen pretended to read from the pad.

Evans still remained silent.

"The scene of crime officers found a bloody fingerprint on a doorframe; it was positively identified as yours. We're still waiting for blood typing but it's either going to be yours or that of the police officer you stabbed. I'm amazed at how sloppy you've been, or maybe you were just cocky, maybe you forgot that we had your fingerprints on file from when you were convicted of stealing cars in your teens." Helen could see it was having no effect and decided to try a different tack.

Evans played with the Styrofoam bits, looking for all the world as cool as a cucumber, but his heart had dropped into his stomach.

"This time though Mr. Evans, you're not going to get a slap on the wrist. This time, you're in big trouble because there is a very real chance that the policewoman you stabbed will die." Helen went for the jugular.

Evans flinched slightly at this and both women saw it.

"And if she does, you'll be charged with murder. Much more serious than stealing a few cars wouldn't you say DI Wade?" Helen turned to Nikki.

"Oh absolutely ma'am, a great deal more serious." Nikki nodded.

"How did you get that wound on your leg Mr. Evans?" Helen immediately changed the subject, knowing it could be an effective interrogation technique, it sometimes tripped up the person you were interviewing.

He shrugged.

"Please speak up for the tape." Helen pointed at the machine on the desk next to her.

"Can't remember," he shrugged again, hoping it would buy him some time to think.

"You can't remember? Strikes me as odd somehow that you can't remember being injured sir, after all it's a pretty deep wound. I also seem to remember that when we arrested you earlier on today, I asked you about the wound and you replied that it was the result of an accident." Helen raised her eyebrows.

"Yeah it was," he nodded.

"But you've just said you couldn't remember." Helen pretended to look confused.

"Does it bloody matter how I hurt myself? I had an accident and I forgot about it, you've just jogged my memory," he quickly put his head down again, chastising himself for being tetchy.

"Good, maybe in that case then I can jog your memory further." Helen stood up and walked slowly around the room.

Evans sat stock-still, he knew they had evidence against him, but he wasn't sure they could actually prove he'd intended to murder the officer. He could try and get away with saying he was just burglar, and that he knew nothing of the kidnap. Somehow though, he was sure they wouldn't buy it. For the moment, he chose to listen rather than speak, so that he could futher assess the situation.

"Your wound is quite similar to DS Jordan's, so similar in fact, that I bet they've actually been caused by the same knife. I'm sure if we were to carry out some tests, we'd be able to confirm it." Helen turned around and nodded at Nikki.

"How did you get it Mr. Evans? Did she struggle a little too violently that you accidentally stabbed yourself in the leg?" Nikki leaned forward.

Evans gritted his teeth, trying not to let them see they were on the right track.

"You know, I think you're right DI Wade, certainly sounds plausible." Helen said as she sat back down beside her.

"I thought so too ma'am, maybe Mr. Evans here just happened to forget about it." Nikki said casually.

"Or maybe he didn't, maybe he didn't want us to know." Helen looked thoughtful.

"I'm sure he doesn't ma'am, maybe that's why he ran away when we tried to talk to him earlier. Almost as soon as he knew we were police officers, he took off running." Nikki leaned back and folded her arms.

"Not the actions of a man who has nothing to hide are they DI Wade?"

"Absolutely not ma'am." Nikki nodded, "but I have the feeling he's not solely responsible. I don't believe he took two officers out of action and kidnapped a mother and child all on his own."

"Well he's a big man DI Wade, he might have managed it but I don't think he did act alone." Helen agreed.

"I wonder where his accomplice actually is? Probably waiting for the football to start, yeah that's more than likely it. Sitting at home, comfortably, waiting for kick off."

"While Mr. Evans here is sitting in a cold draughty police station, taking full responsibility for it all. Very loyal isn't he?" Helen's tone was slightly mocking; she was hoping to provoke some sort of reaction.

"Very loyal indeed, the same can't be said for his partner in crime though." Nikki remarked.

"No it can't." Helen nodded, "so here's how I see it. DS Dockley goes out to investigate a strange noise; Mr. Evans here clubs him over the head, causing his skull to fracture. He makes his way upstairs and is confronted with DS Jordan, he stabs her and she's no longer a problem. His accomplice then helps him with Mrs. Howe and the child, and they leave DS Jordan to bleed to death. And he almost got away with it, except for the fact that he stupidly forgot to wear gloves." Helen sighed theatrically.

Nikki smiled inwardly; she had to admit Helen was very good at all this. Evans looked a little rattled and Helen's monologue had had the desired effect. She gave Nikki a quick wink and leaned back in her chair. Evans knew they had him bang to rights, he was going down, and there wasn't a thing he could do about it and all because he'd forgotten to wear his gloves.

"It's very easy to forget details like that when you're flustered DCI Stewart, but he doesn't strike me as the panicky type. I bet he's very calm and levelheaded in difficult situations." Nikki lit another cigarette and offered one to Helen.

"Do you really think so?" Helen asked, "He struck me as more of an act first; think later type of person. It would explain why things went wrong."

"You have a point." Nikki nodded her agreement, "I wonder how Mr. Parry feels about all this."

At the mention of Parry's name, Evans' head involuntarily shot up, and Helen inwardly smiled at his reaction.

"Touched a nerve did she Sir? I expect Mr. Parry would be very displeased about all this, after all, you never made this sort of mistake when working for Mr. Dougan," she turned to Nikki, "I thought he'd have been more careful, after all Parry isn't known for forgiving and forgetting."

"No he's not, he'd have your kneecaps off as soon as look at you." Nikki replied.

"Oh well, Mr. Evans here is going to jail so he won't have to worry about any of that. I wonder how long he'll get?"

"Depends doesn't it? I mean at the moment, DS Jordan is still in a bad way, so it could end up being a murder charge. Add to that a serious assault on a police officer, and kidnap, and we're looking at them throwing the key away." Nikki tapped an ash and took another deep drag.

"Still, it would be beneficial if he were to help us. The judge is always more lenient when that happens."

"Yes that's true, but I can't see that happening. Mr. Evans seems to want to remain silent on the subject. And we're going to have to put all this in our report, he's very uncommunicative and unremorseful I'd say. That won't look good for him when the judge sees that." Nikki passed a pen to Helen and she pretended to scribble a few things down on her pad.

"Yes, that won't look good at all, but it's not our problem DI Wade, we've done our job." Helen abruptly stood up and Nikki followed suit.

"Alright, what do you want to know?" Evans suddenly spoke up, he'd had enough. He couldn't take anymore, they'd worn him down.

"You can start by telling us where Sarah and the baby are." Helen sat back down again.

They were unaware they were being watched, a lone figure stood in a darkened room watching the interview on a closed circuit TV camera. Evans was spilling his guts and it was time Parry knew.

"Hello it's me."

"What is it?" Parry asked curtly, "I told you not to phone me directly."

"I thought you should know about this, Evans has been caught. They're interviewing him now and he's spilling his guts, they know where the girl is."

"Shit! How long before they get here?" Parry sounded slightly panicked.

"They're arranging things now. Twenty minutes, half an hour perhaps."

"Plenty of time. Come and see me sometime in the next few days, I owe you a meal."

"You owe me more than that."

"You'll get what's yours, so long as you continue to give me information." Parry growled.

"You'll get more information when you pay me for the last lot," the phone was clicked off, and the figure snuck out of the room unnoticed.


Chapter 17

There was a mad dash to the docks; a long line of police cars formed a convoy. They had no time to lose if they wanted to find Sarah and the baby safe and well, Nikki's car was near the front of the line, with Rossi and Waddle following behind. Lorna was riding with them, she was eager to be out on a job, she hadn't been in CID for very long and she was eager to see some 'action'.

But Lorna made sure she kept quiet, Nikki and Helen were on edge, and even though she had a million and one questions she wanted to ask, now wasn't the right time. Helen was especially tense; she wanted a quick and clean result, with Sarah being placed in the least possible danger.

The cars suddenly screeched to a halt haphazardly outside the dock gates and the security guards took one look at the badges flashed in their direction and hurriedly allowed them entry. Dozens of bodies hurried from the cars, like a swarm of bees, and all converged on the shipping office of White Dove Cargo. Nikki felt her adrenaline flowing for the second time that day, as her heart beat like a drum. She like Helen, wished to see this come to a swift and safe conclusion, and was pretty confident they could resolve the situation quickly.

The door to the office was opened with a battering ram and they quickly filed inside. The place appeared to be deserted, and Helen suddenly got a niggling feeling that she couldn't get rid of. Something was wrong, it seemed too quiet, and she was willing to bet it wasn't because the workers should have all gone home for the day. It was the kind of quiet that you associated with a rapidly vacated location.

They formed into groups and searched the building methodically, not a single office or cupboard was left unchecked. By the time they all met up again ten minutes later, it had become readily apparent that Sarah and the baby were nowhere to be found. Nikki watched as Helen's expression changed from one of being tense, to one of ill disguised frustration.

"Fuck!" Helen exclaimed loudly, "I want this place searched again, make sure you look everywhere, and I mean everywhere," she ordered.

The groups filtered off again, less enthusiastically this time because they knew there was nothing to be found. Nikki stood quietly beside Helen for a moment, not daring to say anything in case it set her off. Helen began to pace, as was her habit and Nikki moved out of the way and perched on the edge of a suspiciously clean desk.

"Some bastard informed them." Helen was now experiencing full blown anger, "somebody had to have tipped them off."

"Helen, just try to relax." Nikki said soothingly, but it wasn't having much of an effect.

"Relax? How the hell am I supposed to relax?" Helen paced faster, "she could be in serious danger Nikki, not to mention that poor baby. This whole thing is a fucking shambles!" Helen was predisposed to swearing quite frequently when she was angry, and as she did so her accent became very noticeably stronger.

"I'm well aware of that Helen, but you getting worked up isn't going to do you any good," she said quietly.

Nikki could understand how she was feeling, she felt the same herself, they'd had the hope of finding Sarah handed to them on a silver platter, and it had been snatched away again as quickly as it had been given. But Helen wasn't doing herself any favours by getting het up; she'd only make herself ill again.

"I want to know who the hell knew about this." Helen stopped pacing and flopped onto the desk beside Nikki.

"Half the bloody station, they're all here." Nikki wasn't trying to be funny, and when she saw the look on Helen's face, she was sorry she hadn't stayed quiet.

"Very funny." Helen shook her head tetchily, "I'm well aware half the bloody station is here now, but I want to know is who informed these bastards beforehand?"

"Really only one suspect at the moment." Nikki took her cigarettes out and the thought better of it, Helen didn't need anything that would push her blood pressure up further.

"Fenner." Helen nodded.

"Yep, he's about the only one I can think of right now. Irregardless of who told Parry where Sarah was the first time."

"How do you mean?" Helen asked.

"Well, besides Yvonne and Karen, only Tony and Laura knew where Sarah was. She told them not to tell Fenner so that can mean only one of two things; either one of them grassed to Fenner anyway or one of them informed Parry directly. And since we know they are both in hospital and know nothing of this, then this time it's got to be Fenner. Leading me to draw the conclusion that Fenner isn't the only corrupt officer around, and as much as I hate to think it because they're my friends, I have no choice."

"You make it all sound so simple, well it's not Nikki, it's not that bloody simple at all." Helen replied angrily.

"I'm just telling it like it is Helen." Nikki's voice remained even.

"Yeah I know." Helen nodded her head in agreement and sighed, "I'm sorry Nikki, I didn't mean to take any of this out on you."

Nikki said gently, "It doesn't matter; I know you didn't mean it." She gave Helen a warm smile that made her toes tingle.

"What are we going to do?" Helen suddenly looked as if she had lost all her fight, her shoulders dropped and she bowed her head.

"We'll sort something out, don't worry." Nikki discretely rubbed the small of Helen's back, "If we can get to Sarah in time then we will do, it's just a matter of finding a way," she gave Helen an encouraging smile.

Helen smiled warmly back, "could you do me a favour?"

"Oooo." Nikki sucked air in through her teeth and shook her head from side to side, "Not sure abaht that Guv! Depends on what you wantin' innit," she giggled.

"You daft sod." Helen chuckled; she instantly felt better, "stay with me tonight? Please," she looked at Nikki with such a deep longing in her eyes that it took her breath away.

"You know I will." Nikki said quietly and fought the urge to take Helen in her arms and kiss her.

Whilst they were there, Nikki and Helen took the opportunity of searching around a bit, and found out that the office had been cleared of any paperwork. It was yet another blow, it seemed that every possible avenue open to them was now being systematically closed down. So their idea of finding out more about the gun shipments had been rendered useless, and they were at a loss as to how to proceed on that particular score.

"Fucking place has been hoovered." Helen said seriously, and it made Nikki giggle.

"Sorry." Nikki apologised, "it's just the way you said it, it sounded really funny," she bit her lip and tried not to smile.

"Aye well, you'd laugh if your arse was on fire." Helen smiled at the look on Nikki's face.

"Not a chance." Nikki pointed in the general direction of her backside and replied, "I paid good money for my shreddies, and I'd be sad to see them go up in smoke."

"How could you use such a word?" Helen giggled.

"What word do you want me to use? There's shreddies, undercrackers, bills." Nikki counted them off on her fingers, "tighty whities….." She carried on.

"Shut up and get in the car." Helen rolled her eyes and pushed her in the direction of the door.

After a briefing back at the incident room, Nikki and Helen were more than ready to call it a day. They'd been on the go since 4am and it was now approaching ten o'clock at night. The team had been briefed that they were to keep their ear to the ground for any information, but other than that there wasn't much else they could do.

Nikki called the hospital, and Tony was resting comfortably, whilst Laura's condition remained unchanged. That done, she and Helen could finally leave for the night, they stopped off to pick up a burger on the way home, neither of them having the energy to cook a meal at that hour. They hadn't finished by any stretch of the imagination though. Karen and Yvonne were due to come over and to talk to them about the stuff that John had handed over. And whilst they were eager to know all about it, they would have preferred to do it when they were both less tired.

They arrived at Helen's place and she was made to sit down while Nikki put the kettle on for a much needed coffee. She made a start on her burger but didn't really have the energy or the inclination to eat it, after a couple of bites; she placed it down on the coffee table. Nikki was back several minutes later with the coffee and raised an eyebrow at Helen's barely touched food.

"You not eating?" she remarked as she handed Helen her coffee and unwrapped her own burger.

"Not hungry." Helen replied as she sipped at the scalding contents of her cup.

"Helen you've got to eat. Please, for me?" Nikki looked at her with puppy dog eyes and she couldn't refuse her anything.

"Alright. I will for you, but if I end up ralphing everywhere then it's your fault." Helen fixed her with a mock angry stare.

"Ralphing? How could you use such a word?" Nikki giggled, mimicking their earlier conversation.

"What word do you want me to use? There's puking, throwing up, and gromiting, not to mention hueying." Helen giggled and bit into her burger.

"Shut up and eat." Nikki placed a kiss on Helen's cheek and then got busy with her own food.

Twenty minutes later, she and Nikki were snuggling on the couch.

"Mmmmm this is nice." Helen remarked as she gave Nikki a squeeze.

"It is." Nikki agreed, "and at least we don't have to worry about your mother walking in on us."

There was a knock at the door and Helen groaned, "still can't escape from interruptions though," she got up to open the front door.

Yvonne seemed cheerful enough but Karen was still quiet, and Helen wondered what was wrong with her, it wasn't like her at all. She led them into the living room and they were greeted by Nikki, coffee was offered and they chatted until they had their drinks and were sitting comfortably. Yvonne removed the stuff from a carrier bag and placed it on the coffee table in front of Helen and Nikki.

"Six DVD's in total and a few dozen pages of information." Yvonne pointed to it and then passed her cigarettes around.

"Have you watched them?" Helen asked.

"No I haven't." Yvonne replied truthfully, "I can't make up my mind whether I should or not."

"That's up to you Yvonne, Helen and I won't mind either way, it's your choice." Nikki tapped an ash and took a mouthful of coffee.

"So, what are you going to do about Fenner?" Yvonne did her best to try and behave normally around Karen, if the truth be told, every time she was near her she felt nervous.

"Nothing much we can do, we've got to pass him over to the Internal Investigations Branch." Helen was the first to speak.

"I don't think we should." Nikki shook her head in disagreement.

"You know as well as I do that if a case involves the alleged corrupt behaviour of a police officer then IIB should be informed." Helen folded her arms as she looked at Nikki.

"Yes I know it's standard procedure. But what I'm saying is, before we turn him in, we should gather more evidence."

"But that's not our job Nikki; we're in the CID, not the IIB. We've got to hand all this over and let them do their jobs."

Nikki shook her head, "You know as well as I do that all these cases are connected, and finding out more about what Fenner is up to may give us the opportunity to get the smuggling case reopened."

"And how are we going to prove that these cases are linked? Tell me that." Helen raised an eyebrow at her.

"Well we've got no real physical evidence I know." Nikki shrugged.

"Exactly, We've got no proof of anything that definitively points to these cases being linked, even though we know they are and we're going to have a hard time proving it due to the lack of physical evidence." Helen sighed.

"But I'm sure we could get some evidence if we looked hard enough. I think we should keep an eye on him, see where he goes and what he does. If we get more evidence on him then we can nail him to the floor." Nikki argued.

"Don't we already have enough evidence?" Helen pinched the bridge of her nose; she felt another headache coming on.

"On Fenner maybe." Nikki nodded, "But you know I think that somebody else is involved in all this, and we've got to catch them as well. Keeping an eye on Fenner may lead us to the other person involved."

"That could be risky Nikki, you don't know what you're getting involved in." Yvonne leveled her eyes at Nikki.

"Does anybody not see the point I'm trying to make?" Nikki was irritated, why didn't anybody see it from her point of view?

"I know the point you're trying to make, I'm just questioning how wise it is." Helen replied and picked up her coffee.

"It's a better idea than handing the lot over to the IIB, cos I'm telling you, as soon as we do that, we can kiss all this goodbye. We may, in the end, be allowed to carry on with finding Sarah but that's all they will let us do."

"That doesn't mean SIS will automatically take the investigation over." Yvonne chipped in.

"Oh no?" Nikki's eyes narrowed, "You know as well as I do Yvonne, that SIS will jump at the chance. And the only reason they haven't so far, is because the case hasn't been handed over to them. Fenner said they were investigating it but I don't buy that for a second, if they had been, they'd have been all over our files like flies around shit. I for one, want to get to the bottom of all this, find out who's guilty and make sure they get punished for it."

"Just one thing." Helen turned to face Nikki, "just what do you intend to do if we don't hand all this over?"

"Simple, we make finding Sarah our priority, and after that we deal with the rest. We keep an eye on Fenner like I said, and figure out who the second grass is. After that, we go after Parry and the rest of the scumbags involved with the gun smuggling."

"Second grass?" Karen spoke up, "I thought it was just Fenner?"

"No, somebody else had to be involved. Fenner shouldn't have known where Sarah was, Yvonne told Laura and Tony not to tell him." Nikki lit up another cigarette.

"It's possible he found out by accident though isn't it?" Karen looked at her questioningly, "it doesn't necessarily mean that somebody told him."

"It's possible." Nikki agreed, "but I don't think so. I reckon somebody told him where Sarah was. Hang on." Nikki picked up her mobile phone and dialed Degsy's number, "Degsy? It's Nikki mate. I just needed to ask you something."

"Sure no problem," he said on the other end of the phone cheerfully.

"To the best of your knowledge, did superintendent Fenner know about Laura requesting the keys to the safe house?"

"I don't think he did, Laura came to me and asked me for the keys, she asked me not to book it down because it was highly confidential. I wasn't sure about it at first, until she mentioned it was a special favour for Yvonne Atkins, soon as I heard that, I agreed to keep it quiet. And it would only have been for a couple of days anyway, so there was no real problem."

"So there was nothing written down anywhere?"

"No, like I said, I didn't book it down. Besides, you know Fenner, if he'd found out he would have come to see me personally and so far he hasn't."

"Was there anyone else hanging around?"

"Now you come to mention it, yeah. DS Lockyer was. He was turning the place upside down looking for some form or other. But I'm pretty sure he didn't hear us."

"Cheers Degsy." Nikki didn't know what to make of it; she didn't like Lockyer but was he really a grass? "I owe you one, again," she chuckled softly.

"Yeah you do, but I know you're good for paying out. Is there a problem?"

"No, I wanted to check all the facts, just covering my arse. See you Degsy, thanks mate." Nikki put the phone down, "apparently Fenner doesn't know, whether that's true or not is anybody's guess. The suspect list just gained another member anyway."

"Who?" Helen asked.

"Andy." Nikki said quietly, "he was hanging about in reception when Laura asked for the keys."

"Right." Helen took the news calmly, "so we're left with Tony, Laura, Andy and Fenner. We can't totally rule Fenner since we're not a hundred percent sure whether he really knows or not."

"And Sarah's second disappearance?" Yvonne asked.

"We can rule out Tony and Laura, because they didn't know that Evans had informed us of Sarah's whereabouts. But that still leaves us with Andy and Fenner." Nikki shrugged.

"So we're assuming that the person who called Parry about Evans was in fact Fenner?" Karen asked.

"Unless Andy did, but yeah, I think we can safely say that it was him." Nikki shrugged, she wasn't sure now, it was all so difficult to figure out.

Helen groaned, "This is far too complicated."

"And Degsy? You can't rule him out since he knows too." Karen enquired.

"Nope, can't rule out Degsy either." Nikki agreed.

"Well that's great if it is Degsy, you've just called him, and given him a head's up." Karen's expression was so serious, it was comical.

"Good point." Nikki chuckled, "but like I said, even though we can't rule him out, I still don't think it's him. My gut instinct tells me he isn't involved because he's one of the most honest guys I know, but then again I thought the same about Fenner." Nikki sighed.

"Hang on a mo." Yvonne suddenly thought of something, "What about Rossi and Waddle?"

"What about them?" Helen looked questioningly at her.

"Laura said she was going to call them, so that they could take over looking after Sarah the next morning. I assume she called them because Gina didn't ask questions when I called and told her about Tony and Laura being injured and Sarah being kidnapped."

"If that's the case then." Nikki replied, "we've got another two suspects."

They discussed who it was most likely to be, Tony and Laura were the main suspects at the moment, but nobody really wanted to believe it. Laura had been badly injured, but that didn't mean it couldn't be her, but then again, Tony hadn't been so badly injured and it could have explained why he wasn't. As for the rest of them, they had no idea.

"I don't bloody know, the more I think about it, the more confused I become." Nikki sighed and leaned back as she rubbed her eyes.

"You're not the only one." Helen rifled in her bag for a couple of pain killers and washed them down with her now cold coffee.

"The only thing you can do is question Tony about it tomorrow. If Laura makes it, you can question her too." Yvonne didn't know what to make of it all either, but it was obvious they had a real problem on their hands.

"Fact is, it's going to be a while before we know who the second grass is anyway." Helen rested her chin on her hand, "the most important thing is concentrating on finding Sarah, there's not much else we can do for now."

They all nodded their agreement, knowing that for now, they'd made as much sense of everything as they were able to. Nikki picked up the first DVD and placed it in Helen's machine, maybe it would tell them more.

The picture wasn't that great, it was quite grainy and it was dark, but the sound was pretty clear. They couldn't make anything out clearly, it was a jumble of out of focus shapes, but it suddenly cleared and they noticed they were in some sort of a club. It was a strip club to be precise, recognisable by the sheer amount of naked women writhing about on stage. Parry was immediately noticeable as the camera panned over to him, he sat at a table with some of his cronies, a topless woman was sat on his lap.

They were laughing and joking and Parry seemed to be quiet merry. This went on for a further half an hour, with more shots of the club and Parry and Nikki began to get bored. Just at the end of the DVD, the picture changed to an office and Parry was sitting at his desk in a state of undress. A young woman entered the picture and knelt down before him, Nikki averted her eyes, she knew what was happening and didn't want to see it. The picture faded out, and she changed the DVD.

The next DVD was mostly the same, various perverted sex acts were caught on camera and Parry seemed to be the recipient of most of them. It sickened them all but they had no choice but to watch, there could be vital information on them that they might miss if they didn't watch it all. The rest of the DVD's all proved to be mostly the same but it was the second to last one that yielded some of the information they were looking for.

Situated in the same strip club, the camera panned across the crowd, and sitting in one corner, talking to Parry was Jim Fenner.

"Fenner." Yvonne said immediately.

"Slimy bastard." Nikki remarked.

A half naked woman was pushed in his direction, and came to rest on his lap, but he looked quite embarrassed about the fact. He immediately excused himself from Parry's company and disappeared from view. It was fifteen minutes before he was back, and he sat down next to Parry, as they began to discuss something.

They couldn't hear what was said because the music was too loud but it lasted a matter of seconds and then a large wad of cash was passed over to Fenner. He shook Parry's hand and then left the abruptly, as the naked woman was back and began crawling all over Parry and his cronies.

The picture changed again, and Parry was back in his office with two young women. The camera was pointing at the back of their heads and it was impossible to see their faces. Parry was talking crudely to them from where he sat at his desk and the women weren't enjoying it, in fact they seemed pretty fearful. It was evident in their voices when Parry asked them questions.

Parry suddenly stood up and exposed himself to them, as a couple of his men held the young women down, who by now were screaming and shouting. Parry then proceeded to brutally rape them. They were all shocked and sickened by what they were seeing; they could feel the bile rising in their throats. Nikki had seen enough and quickly fast forwarded the tape, but quickly stopped it again when something caught her attention.

"Jesus!" Nikki exclaimed.

"I don't believe it." Yvonne was equally shocked.

"Oh my god, poor Sarah." Helen said quietly as she saw Sarah's face contorted with fear and agony as Parry abused her.

"Wait a minute." Nikki took the DVD back and took note of her clothes, "she was working as a stripper in the club, I'm sure I remember her red blouse from the last DVD. I couldn't see her face but I'm pretty sure it was her."

"No wonder John hated Parry." Yvonne could see it all made sense now, "that bastard raped his wife."

They continued to watch the rest of the DVD, Parry not only raped the poor women but he tied them up and tortured them for fun. The look on his face was pure evil and Nikki didn't think she'd ever wanted to catch and convict somebody as much as she wanted to catch Parry. Helen felt exactly the same, she was determined to find Sarah and the baby, and make sure they were safe. Then she would go after Parry, Fenner and anybody else involved.

The last DVD, contained more footage of inside the nightclub but this time, it changed to the office and Parry was talking business with a couple of men. They seemed to be arguing about drugs money and Parry lost his temper in spectacular fashion. It all ended with him murdering them as his men held them down. Nikki switched the DVD player off and they all sat there in silence, totally lost for words because of what they'd just seen. They were now more fearful for Sarah's safety than ever, because they'd witnessed what Parry was capable of.

"We should start making a move soon, but before we do, I have something to tell you." Karen broke the silence.

"Go on." Helen sat forward slightly and Karen had her full attention.

"The bullet from Dougan's postmortem turned up something really strange. We ran it through the computer to see if the gun had been used before and it came up with a positive match."

"That's good." Nikki nodded enthusiastically.

"I thought so too, until I found out all the details. According to the ballistics database, the gun was destroyed two years ago by the police; it was a registered police firearm." Karen let the implications sink in.

Nikki whistled through her teeth, "I didn't expect that."

"No neither did I." Karen agreed, "but that's not all, the firearm that was destroyed, was a Glock nine millimeter, which is standard police issue, however the bullet that killed Dougan came from a Sig Sauer P225."

"So somewhere along the line, the database has been altered." Helen lit up a cigarette and passed them around, "meaning that whenever this gun is used, it always comes back to being registered as a gun that's been destroyed and we're no further forward."

"The ballistics database is very secure, they'd know if somebody tried to hack into it." Nikki inhaled deeply, "and not everybody has access to it."

"Would Fenner have access to it?" Karen enquired.

"Nope, Fenner is too far down the food chain for that, but somebody higher ranking will." Nikki replied.

"Stubberfield?" Helen asked suddenly.

"Yeah he'd have access to it, but I doubt he even knows what a database is. When he joined the police, Jack the Ripper was still a lad." Nikki quipped.

"Why Stubberfield?" Yvonne asked.

"I was just thinking." Helen blew smoke out and looked at her, "he was the one that told Fenner that we had to let Parry go, and I'm still undecided if he was acting alone or on orders from higher up."

"It's always possible he's involved too, he could have allowed access to the database so they didn't get caught hacking into it." Yvonne nodded, "bloody hell, this is turning out to be like a bad game of Cluedo."

"Tell me about it." Helen rolled her eyes and nodded.

Ten minutes later, Karen and Yvonne said goodnight and made their way back to Karen's place. Yvonne was silent on the journey there and Karen didn't say anything for fear of breaking their fragile truce. As soon as they got home, Karen phoned a taxi for Yvonne and they sat quietly in the living room while they waited for it to turn up.

"Why have you been avoiding me?" Yvonne asked. She knew it was a dangerous conversation to get into but it had been bothering her that Karen seemed to be keeping her distance.

"I've been with you all bloody day." Karen replied irritably, she was tired and still upset about the previous night.

"You know what I mean." Yvonne's eyes narrowed, "you've hardly said two words to me and when you have, it's been from about fifty feet away."

"Can you blame me? I don't dare get too close in case I'm accused of something! I kiss you and you disappear faster than I can blink, which somehow all turns out to be my fault even though you kissed me back!" Karen ranted, "I'm not an idiot Yvonne, I may seem thick at times but I can assure you……."

"Karen, shut up for a minute. We need to talk about this properly." Yvonne was amused at how rattled Karen was. She knew she shouldn't be but there was something almost cute about it.

"Well tough tit!" Karen shouted as Yvonne choked on a giggle, "you had your chance to talk last night and you didn't, so you can wait till I'm good and ready Atkins. I'm tired, and I need to sleep, I do not intend…….."

"Don't you ever shut up Karen Betts?" Yvonne said and then placed her hand over her mouth to hide the fact she was dying to laugh.

"I don't bloody well see why I should….." Karen very quickly shut up as Yvonne got up and came towards her.

Yvonne caught hold of Karen's face and placed her lips briefly against hers.

"My taxi is here, I'll see you soon." Yvonne winked at Karen and left her sitting there alone, totally gob smacked.


Chapter 18

Thursday 2pm

Nikki sat looking up at the clock on the incident room wall, as if willing time to stand still. They'd had no luck in finding Sarah, Laura was still critical in hospital, and they were no further forward in finding out who the second grass was. Despite having to consider her friends as suspects, she really didn't want to do it, and so far she had resisted questioning Tony about it.

She understood Helen was giving her some leeway on the matter, but she knew she couldn't take advantage of Helen's patience forever; and she'd have to get it over with sometime soon. She was regretting that she'd persuaded Helen not to hand the case over; she was convinced that if they had then Sarah would have been found by now. Helen had tried to talk to her about it, because she'd noticed something was bothering her but she'd brushed it off and told Helen she was fine. Helen hadn't believed her for a second but knew it was no good forcing the issue, Nikki would tell her in her own time.

To make matters worse, Andy was taking potshots at her every five minutes and she was getting fed up of it. He kept making crude references about their sexual activities, not that there had been any anyway. But it grated on Nikki's nerves and she was a short distance away from tearing a strip off him.

"Nikki, can I have a word please?" Helen called out across the incident room.

"Of course boss." Nikki smiled back and felt her heartbeat speed up.

Helen had taken to dressing casually for work and was wearing jeans, which Nikki thought she looked stunning in. There was something about Helen's rear end that made her want to stare at it for hours. Add to that the tight fitting t-shirt that finished the outfit off, and Nikki was totally lost whenever she caught sight of her.

Helen closed the office door and walked towards her; she placed her arms around her shoulders and kissed her hungrily. Nikki's hands couldn't help traveling down to Helen's backside.

"I knew it was a mistake wearing these jeans." Helen grinned.

"I don't get much excitement in life Helen, so the jeans stay." Nikki chuckled.

"Fancy helping me out of them later?" A seductive look passed over her face as her hand ran down the front of Nikki's body.

"Are you trying to seduce me?" Nikki raised her eyebrow.

"Yes and you won't play ball." Helen stuck her tongue out at her, "how come you won't let me rip your clothes off and make love to you all night long?" she placed her tongue in-between her teeth and smiled.

Nikki shivered at the words, "Cos I'm a good girl and I haven't taken you home to meet my mum yet."

"Can I at least leer at you frequently then?" Helen smiled.

"You can leer, you can kiss and you can cop a feel. But that's all till my mum gives you her seal of approval." Nikki giggled.

"When can I meet her then?" Helen was serious, she wanted to meet Nikki's family, she wanted to know everything about her.

"You can meet her anytime you want to. But be warned, she'd have us married within five minutes of you getting inside the door."

"I think I like her already." Helen nodded enthusiastically.

"How about I take you to meet the family after the weekend then?"

"I look forward to it." Helen said, and pulled Nikki in for another kiss.

Sarah struggled into a sitting position and viewed the room through swollen eyes. She didn't have a clue where she was, only that it looked to be like the inside of a portacabin. She'd been there for a while; she wasn't sure how long because time seemed to have no meaning when you'd spent your days being beaten and interrogated. She was cold and stiff, and her body screamed out in pain with every movement she made.

She could hear the noise of the wind howling outside, and guessed that wherever she was, it was pretty remote because there seemed to be no other noises. But she quickly revised that opinion when she heard the loud sound of a boat horn. Where the hell was she?

She was startled as a banging noise suddenly echoed around the room, it sounded as if somebody was trying to prise the door open. After a few bangs the noise stopped, and the door was pushed open. Sarah quickly picked the baby up and scooted into the corner, as a tall dark haired man entered. She immediately breathed a sigh of relief, she knew him and they'd be safe. It was Phil, a very good friend of John's.

"Jesus, look at the state of you." His expression was pained as he knelt beside her. He brushed his hand down her cheek as tears sprang to his eyes.

"Oh Phil, thank god you're here." She broke down and sobbed.

"What did those bastards do to you?" he said tearfully.

"They kicked me around but I'll live. I'm more worried about Jade," she looked down at her daughter still sleeping in her arms.

"Is she ok?" He looked down at the baby in concern.

"She's hungry and need's changing but she's ok." Sarah replied.

"Can you walk?"

"I don't know, I might be able to, you'll need to help me."

"Take hold of my hand." He held his hand out to her and there was an urgency in his voice, "I know it hurts but we've got to be quick. The bloke guarding you could be back any minute and we've got to get out of here before he comes back."

"How did you know I was here?" Sarah kept the baby in a tight grip with one arm as she was pulled to her feet with the other.

"I heard Parry's lot talking, they're all getting just a bit too loose lipped these days but I'm glad they are because I would never have found you otherwise." He placed his arm around Sarah and the baby and held onto them tightly as she hobbled to the door.

"My leg hurts too much, I can't do it." Sarah cried out in pain as she tried to take another step.

"Look, stay here, I'll back in two minutes. I'll put the baby in the car, and I'll come back for you." He waited for Sarah's nod and then he ran off with the baby.

He quickly placed the baby on the front passenger seat, and wrapped the seatbelt around her to try and keep her in place. He gunned the engine and sped towards the portacabin, which was situated on a stretch of waste ground, in a run down area just yards from the river Thames. He skidded to a halt and raced inside to get Sarah, who had already collapsed back on to the floor.

He picked her up and placed her on the backseat of the car, and then handed the baby to her. He made sure she was securely belted in and then rifled in the boot of his car.

"What are you doing?" Sarah wondered what he was up to.

"Just taking care of some loose ends," he replied before heading into the building.

He sprayed petrol everywhere and set light to the portacabin before sprinting back to the car. He was just about to pull away when the man who was supposed to be keeping an eye on Sarah came towards them in his car. Phil told Sarah to hold on and slammed the accelerator to the floor, he saw the look of recognition on the man's face as he drove past and then saw him swing his car around to follow him in the rear view mirror.

Andy passed by Nikki's desk again, for the umpteenth time that afternoon and decided it was time to have another dig at her. So far he hadn't gotten the reaction he'd wanted, Helen usually ignored him and so far Nikki hadn't lost her temper, although he knew it was winding her up.

"Shagged out Wade?" he grinned.

"Take a long walk off a short pier Lockyer." Nikki retorted.

"Frustrated? Yeah, I would be too. Helen isn't much good is she? And I should know, because I've had her and I'm talking from experience."

"I'm warning you." Nikki shot him a glare.

"I'm shaking in my boots," he just about managed to finish what he was saying before Nikki grabbed him by the lapels of his suit jacket.

"I've had just about as much as I can take from you Andy. You've done nothing but snipe about me and Helen since you got here and I'm sick of it. So either you shut your mouth, or I'll shut it for you," she snarled.

"Reckon you could do you?" His tone didn't sound nearly as confident as he would have wished.

"Oh I know I could. Question is, do you want me to prove it?" Nikki's voice became low and menacing.

"You haven't got the bottle," he laughed humourlessly.

"Like I said, I'd be happy to prove it."

"I wouldn't waste my time, I've got better things to do." He shrugged.

Nikki started laughing and let go of him, "you keep telling yourself that. Who knows? You might believe it one day."

The phone rang and she snatched it up, glad of the distraction.


"Nikki," a male voice sobbed on the other end of the phone.

"Tony? Is that you?" Nikki suddenly had a bad feeling, "What's the matter?"

"It's Laura." Tony struggled to speak through his tears, "she's dead Nikki, she's gone."

"Oh Jesus." Nikki sat down heavily on her desk as the tears poured down her face, "I can't believe it, I knew her injuries were bad but I always thought she'd pull through."

"You don't understand. She didn't die from her injuries Nikki, somebody murdered her." Tony wiped his eyes but the tears were replaced with fresh ones, "She was shot straight through the head."

Phil swung the car heavily around a corner and then quickly turned at the next left, trying desperately to shake off the man chasing them. He'd been chasing them for the best part of ten minutes and no matter what Phil did, he couldn't get rid of him. The baby had woken up and was screaming, despite Sarah's attempts at trying to quieten her down.

"I can't lose him." Phil was sweating heavily and swinging the steering wheel to and fro.

"You shouldn't have come for us; he knows who you are and you're in danger now." Sarah rocked the baby, trying to get her to calm down.

"It doesn't matter, because they won't be able to find me." He jerked the handbrake up as he skidded around another corner, "Jenny and the kids are already abroad, I saw them off yesterday. I'll be joining them soon, come with me?"


"Come with me. You and Jenny get on really well, and the kids will love having Jade around. Let me take care of you like John wanted me to."

"I don't….I don't know." Sarah realised there was nothing much to hang around for but she wasn't sure what to do.

"Take your time and think about it," he swerved to miss an oncoming car, "Shit! That's if we live long enough," he wiped the sweat from his brow and took a deep breath, "You've got a few days anyway because you're not in any condition to travel."

"Ok, I will think about it." Sarah nodded.

"Screw this." Phil said angrily, "I'm just going to pull over."

"You can't! He's got a gun." Sarah shouted.

"He's not the only one." Phil pointed at his jacket and pulled the car over to the kerb in a quiet side street.

He put the gun in the back of his jeans and then climbed out of the car, the man who had been chasing them mirrored his actions and they stood in front of each other like two cowboys at high noon. The man went to make a move for his gun but Phil was faster.

"Make one move Sid and I'll blow your brains out." Phil warned.

"You're in deep shit now pal. As soon as the boss finds out about this, he'll spit roast your balls," the man chuckled.

"Yeah probably but I won't be the only one he's after will I?" Phil could see the man's mind ticking over, and could imagine what he was thinking.

"Just give me the girl and I'll let you go." He tried to sound nonchalant but this wasn't a good situation, if Phil didn't kill him, Parry would.

"Don't make me laugh." Phil grinned, he knew he had the upper hand, "You've got sod all to bargain with mate, you're in deep shit no matter which way you look at it. Now, you throw me your car keys, and I'll let you live, but if you don't…," he let the threat hang.

Sid shook his head, "Give me the girl and the kid and I promise I won't tell Parry what you've done."

"Not a chance." Phil shook his head, and then had to react quickly when Sid reached for his gun, he shot him in the thigh as a warning and he crumpled to the floor."

"You bloody maniac!" Sid screamed and rolled about clutching his leg.

"Give me the car keys or you get one in the other leg."


"Ok then." Phil shrugged and aimed the gun at his kneecap.

"Wait! Wait!" he shouted desperately, "Ok, I'll give you the keys but I'm warning you, Parry will come after you."

"That's alright, because he'll get to you first and by the time he's dealt with you sunshine, I'll be long gone."

Sid threw the keys at him, and hoped he was wrong. Maybe he'd be able to talk his way out of it, but one thing was for sure, he'd find out soon enough.

"Thanks Sid, oh and just so you know, I wasn't going to kill you. That's Parry's job." Phil gave him a wave and climbed back into the car before driving off and leaving him bleeding on the pavement.

Nikki and Helen watched as Laura's body was zipped into a body bag. She'd seen people being zipped into a pouch before but Laura was somebody she had considered a good friend, she wasn't looking at a murder victim she'd never known. Nikki was finding the situation hard to deal with, and she whispered to Helen that she needed to leave the room; she felt that to speak any louder would have been disrespectful. Helen nodded and gave her a tender look; it was all Nikki needed to set her off crying again and she rapidly left the room.

Karen had been on call and immediately had made her way to the scene of death. It was the first time she'd ever had to investigate a murder in a hospital. It was the complete opposite of everything a hospital was supposed to be. You went there when you were sick to be healed, not to be murdered in your bed as you were recovering.

She slipped her gloves off and moved over to Helen to talk to her, "cause of death in this case is clear, fatal penetrating wound to the frontal lobe. Or in layman's terms, gunshot straight through the forehead. I've had my team go over everything, and as you'd expect, there are a lot of fingerprints, fibres and so on because it's a high traffic area. So it's going to take a while for us to try and isolate any potential evidence that the killer may have left behind." Karen could see Helen wasn't taking much notice.

"I can't believe this." Helen shook her head.

"I know, it's come as quite a shock." Karen folded her arms, "does Yvonne know?" Karen couldn't help thinking about her.

"Yeah, I called her on the way here, she's devastated. She thought like we all did that Laura would get better."

"I'll arrange to do the post tonight and I'll try and release her body to her family as quickly as I can. Now, one more thing, I don't normally bar the police from my autopsy room but in this case I will. Not only because we know certain members of the force have been doing something they shouldn't but also because she was a colleague and friend to a great many people and none of you need to see it."

"Thanks Karen, I really appreciate that. Nobody would want to see her like that, we'd all prefer to remember her how she was." Helen felt a lump forming in her throat, she hadn't known Laura very well but she had liked her immensely.

"I'll be on my way then, I've done all I can do here, but if you have any questions then you know where I am," she patted Helen on the shoulder and left the room.

Helen watched as Karen's assistants removed everything from the room, it would need to be taken away and looked at closely. Some of her officers were already talking to the staff and getting fingerprints where possible. It wouldn't be an easy task seeing as how literally dozens of people traipsed through there every day, but they had no choice, if they ever wanted to find her killer.

She left the room and made her way to the main entrance of the hospital, she crossed the road to where Nikki was standing by her car. Groups of officers were dotted about talking quietly and she nodded to a few of them as she came to a stop beside Nikki. It was obvious she had been crying and Helen took her into her arms, she sobbed on her shoulder and Helen whispered to her as she rubbed her back. It was the first time she had ever seen her in such an emotional state and it tugged on Helen's heart strings. She wished she could take the pain away, wished that she could make everything alright but it wasn't and for some people it never would be.

"It's ok sweetheart, I'm here." Helen said as she rocked Nikki in her arms.

"I'm sorry." Nikki sniffed and pulled back.

"Don't be daft." Helen placed a kiss on her cheek, "you've got nothing to be sorry for."

"I've dripped all over your jacket." Nikki absentmindedly wiped her tears from Helen's leather jacket.

"Sod the jacket, all I care about is you." Helen wrapped her arms around Nikki's neck, "you're more important to me than anything."

"I know." Nikki nodded, "I feel exactly the same about you. Oh and by the way, half the team is watching." Nikki managed a small smile.

"I don't care," she placed her hand on the back of Nikki's neck, "I love you Nikki and people can think whatever they like."

Nikki's eyebrows rose in surprise, "You love me?" She had seen the way Helen looked at her but had never dared to believe that she actually loved her.

"I'm totally head over heels in love with you." Helen nodded.

Nikki's face broke into a grin, "I love you too Helen."

"I know." Helen smiled back, "I've known for a while sweetheart. Come on then, let's get going. We've got a lot of work to do, we can talk later," she gave Nikki another kiss on the cheek.

Nikki nodded and with one last look at the hospital, she got into the car.

Parry wasn't happy, first the DVD's and now this. He surveyed the burnt out remains of the portacabin and felt rage flowing through him. To top it all off, he had a big meeting in a couple of hours time and he couldn't afford for any of this to get out. He stormed across to the car that contained a heavily bleeding Sid, whom they'd picked up fifteen minutes earlier when he'd called and said he desperately needed help. They'd found him sitting in the car, trying to look as if he was anything but slowly bleeding to death.

"What the fuck happened?" Parry shouted.

"I'd nipped out for some fags Guv and a few snacks," he managed to say through pain clenched teeth, "I'd only been gone a couple of minutes when I came back to find this place on fire and Phil driving off with John's Mrs.."

"You were supposed to be watching her! Not toddling off on a bloody shopping trip!" Parry's face was verging on purple, "How the hell did he find out where she was?"

"I don't know." Sid shook his head, he was pale and shivering, he needed hospital treatment but he knew he wouldn't get it.

"You're all fucking morons! You can't be trusted to do your jobs properly." Parry began to pace and all Sid could see was the top of his head as he passed back and forth by the car.

They hadn't witnessed him this angry for a long time, but even back then it had been a controlled anger. These days though, it was obvious he was no longer in control, he got angry at the slightest thing and would fly off the handle. There were murmurs amongst his group of men that he was no longer fit to lead them, and several had big ideas of pushing him off his pedestal. It was a measure of just how much things had changed, once upon a time they would never have contemplated it, but now they could see him for what he was: a weak man who would be nothing without them.

Parry came to a halt by the car door, "Say goodbye Johnson," he removed a gun from his pocket and tightened the silencer.

"No, please no." He began to shake violently, "I've got a family to take care of, please don't kill me," he had known all along that this would happen, but he'd foolishly thought he might have been able to talk his way out of it.

"You should have thought about that before." Parry leveled the gun at his head and fired. The body slumped back against the seat, "get rid of it," he pointed towards the car, "before he starts to stink the place out."

Jim Fenner stood in front of the mirror in his office, checking his appearance. He was due at a big meeting with Parry in an hour. Fenner felt he was being left out of the loop and he wasn't sure why, but he was finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with Parry and he didn't know much about what was going on these days. But he supposed that because he had been invited to this meeting that maybe things weren't as bad as he had thought.

He'd have to try and worm his way back in again, otherwise he'd be out in the cold and that would never do. He was about to pick up his briefcase and leave for the day when his phone rang.

He rolled his eyes as he fiddled in his pocket for his mobile phone, "Fenner."

"It's me," the voice on the other end sounded agitated.

"I told you not to call me while I'm still at the station." He spoke quietly.

"I know but this is important. I've done it."

"Done what?" Fenner was puzzled.

"I've killed her. I had to, I couldn't take the risk."

"Please tell me it wasn't you." Fenner began to sweat and there was a thin sheen of perspiration on his forehead.

"I had to or she would have dragged us both down."

"You don't know that!" he shouted and then remembered where he was and lowered his voice, "You don't know for a fact that Laura would have said anything."

"I know the way her mind works, she would have told somebody sooner or later, and I couldn't take the risk of her regaining consciousness. We were lucky that she got stabbed in the first place."

Fenner couldn't believe what he was hearing, "you might think it was lucky but I don't share your views. There was no need for you to kill her, none whatsoever, we could have had a quiet word with her. What in gods name has gotten into you?"

"I'm sorry, but it had to be done," the voice on the other end sounded resolute.

"You bloody fool." Fenner shook his head and ended the call without saying another word.

Parry's heartbeat was off the scale by the time he reached the place they'd all agreed to meet at. The car door was opened for him by his driver and he climbed out as he looked up at the huge multi-million pound mansion in front of him. He could have been forgiven for thinking that he was on some country estate somewhere, but was in fact, in a wealthy neighbourhood in London. The house was secluded from its neighbours and very secure, making it the ideal location for a businessman wishing to remain anonymous.

"This way Mr. Parry." A man in a crisp Armani suit spoke to him in heavily accented English.

"Is Mr. Fenner here yet?" Parry discretely wiped the palms of his hands on his pants; he was panicking and sweating underneath his expensive suit.

"Yes sir, he arrived ten minutes ago." The man nodded politely, "he has been shown into the drawing room for drinks, Mr. Camaletti insisted upon it. This way please Sir."

Parry followed him and found himself ushered into a massive room, with high ceilings and very expensive looking furniture. He was quite rich himself but he doubted he'd be able to afford anything quite as grand. He nodded at Jim Fenner but didn't utter a word and sat down, a tumbler of whisky was placed in his hand and he gratefully accepted it, it was just what he needed to calm his nerves.

Fenner watched him from across the room; he noticed the damp patches under the arms of Parry's suit jacket and correctly assumed something had happened. The door opened again and another visitor was ushered in, Fenner immediately got to his feet and greeted the newcomer.

"Very good to see you Sir Gossard," he shook the hand of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

"Hello Jim, good to see you too. Please, call me John, don't stand on ceremony," he smiled a smug smile and Fenner's skin crawled, he didn't like the man in the least.

"Of course John." Fenner bowed his head respectfully.

"Excuse me gentlemen," the man in the Armani suit was back, "Mr. Camalletti will see you now."

They followed the man out of the room and down a series of corridors, a set of huge wooden double doors were opened and a long table lay before them. It was some thirty feet in length and highly polished, with chairs lined up neatly on either side. Camaletti stood at the head of the table and cheerfully greeted them all, and indicated that they should sit.

"So, how is everybody today?" Gino Camaletti spoke perfect English. His mother was English and his father was half Italian half Irish and he'd spent his early years in expensive boarding schools, where he had carefully cultivated his accent.

"Fine thank you Sir." Parry was the first to speak.

"Good good, and the rest of you gentleman?" He looked around the room at various groups of people who hadn't been offered a seat since they weren't deemed worthy to sit at his table.

Everybody nodded and murmured that they were indeed doing well and then became silent again. Camaletti clicked his fingers and trays of food and drinks were brought in. When the servants had left, Gino leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers, focusing his eyes on Parry.

"A little bird tells me you've been having problems lately Mark," he fixed him with a steely glare, "And I think you should fill me in on what's been happening.

Parry went paler than before, and broke out into a cold sweat. He had the feeling Camaletti was aware of the details already and he knew it was touch and go whether he would make it out of the house alive.

Chapter 19

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